Album Review: ‘Awaken, My Love!’ by Childish Gambino

6 mins read
Image: Rolling Stone

by Cameron Watson

Childish Gambino is probably one of the most elusive people in music. Starting out as a side project from his comedy career, Donald Glover came up with the alter ego in order to make music, say what he wanted and even mock himself.

Already being a hugely successful actor, stand up and writer, his music career has seemed to skyrocket as well, with his third full length album finally being released on the 2nd December titled “Awake, My Love!”.

The album seemed to arrive out of nowhere with it being announced around mid-November and the only inclining of new music arriving from Gambino being when he held a “listening event” in Joshua Tree, California. However even though there was less than a month to gain attention and anticipation for the record, Gambino managed to create the same level of hysteria for the album as other successful artists who announce new albums months in advance.

The album is a huge departure from his traditional hip-hop/rap style and has moved into a more funk and soul ground. His first album was a very generic rap album with the main distinction being the fact that he seemed to hold nothing back and would comment on anyone and anything. Bragging about his career in Television on “Freaks and Geeks” (“Told all you n****s I’m in it to win it cause havin’ an Emmy just wasn’t enough”) as well as Gambino mocking his normal persona in “Bonfire” (“I don’t talk soft, that’s that other guy”).

“Because the internet”, his second full length album, then took on more of a concept idea. The album heavily samples audio clips, sound bites and uses mainly electronically produced music to create something more focused on the modern age and everything about it. He also is still very much trying to justify himself as a rapper in the album which comes to a head in “IV. Sweatpants” (“Real n***a feeling/ Rich kid, asshole, paint me as a villain”) which is probably the heaviest and darkest song on the album, boasting that even though he has always been seen as an actor and writer he is still better than the rest (“don’t be mad cause I’m doing me better than you doing you”).

Gambino leaves the rap game behind in his newest album. “Awaken, My Love!” is him justifying himself as an artist and showing that he isn’t just another actor wanting to make it in music and proving that he is going to be around for a while.

The album is a mix of 70’s funk with a futuristic sound that you would never think of gelling together but somehow Gambino makes it flawless. The first single “Me and your Mama” starts the album of with an almost ethereal feel before breaking down with a gospel choir, heavy bass and electric guitar that then peters out to fade to nothing. It’s lyrics, although few, convey a simple message of love (“Girl, you really got a hold on me/So this isn’t just puppy love”) which fits nicely to the sound.

Another standout track would be “Zombies”. The track starts with an electric guitar over an eerie background before Gambino comes in with the strangest singing voice he has mustered this far. At first it’s a little jarring but due to this and the lyrics that could be talking about the modern music industry (“We’re oh so glad we met you/ We’re eating you for profit/There is no way to stop it”) the track is pretty catchy and easy to listen to.

“The Night Me and Your Mama Met” then begins to close the album quite beautifully. The track is an instrumental depiction of when he met the mother of his child and provides a moment of pureness in the album. A calm, synthesised guitar (or ukulele) opens the track, followed by another gospel choir (a common theme throughout the album) before an electric guitar begins to play gelling everything together perfectly.

Like many fans of Gambino, I do have my qualms with it. Going into the album I was expecting to hear more of what I loved, the fast paced rapper who had fun with his lyrics and didn’t care much for the world around him. This however was something much different and at first set me back. I wasn’t impressed at all, but with further listening, and getting over my initial shock, I came to love what Gambino had created. More than anything, this album is an experience, and a good one at that. The main message conveyed throughout is his love for his new born child and the child’s mother through the songs mentioned above as well as “Baby Boy”. It is sensual, scary, raw and brilliant.

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