Right… Awaken, My Love… Where to start?… A general umbrella opinion of this quite musically controversial album is that it’s great; the album envelopes so many genres and styles and uses so many techniques that you wouldn’t expect an R&B artist to use. But it’s very easy to argue that Childish Gambino isn’t your bog-standard R&B artist.
Donald Glover has released 4 projects under his musical alter ego Childish Gambino, and each of them has been very different from each other, but if you listen to each of them in order, you can see where a lot of the ideas of his songs spawned, and then the rather strange songs on “Awaken, My Love” don’t seem so weird.
His first, incredibly aggressive Rap and Hip-Hop album, “Camp” released in 2011, portrays well his anger and strong emotions through his music. You might feel deterred from his music from one listen of this album. But if you repeat it and really listen, even though this style of music isn’t new, it does bring a change to the mundane chart heavy music. His 2013 album “Because the Internet” followed well despite seeming like a huge flip in style with it’s very chill hip-hop vibe. Some of the later songs in the album, especially the interlude tracks, are a good hint to his subsequent project “Kauai”, an EP released in 2014. Kauai is the album most like “Awaken, My Love” in that it’s a lot less rap and more vocal and, by far, more experimental.
It’s likely that you’ve heard of the album’s headline song: Redbone. It was featured in the brilliant psychological horror movie, Get Out, and has been host to one of the more popular memes this year, where the song would be remixed comedically, sometimes, at least. Donald Glover even acknowledged the meme in a concert as an introduction before performing the song. Redbone is an incredible song, and it started out as just a simple drum beat that Donald Glover thought of and suggested to composer and producer, Ludwig Göransson. The two went on to write this, in my opinion, masterpiece.
Another song that was, to an extent, unavoidable was the opening song, Me and Your Mama. It was published on YouTube several weeks before the album was released. It reached and stayed quite high on the UK YouTube trending charts for a couple weeks. I think this song itself is a good description of the whole album. The introduction is very chill and quite drawn out, with its choral vocals and complex keyboard melody, while still being hard hitting with its strong drums.Then almost half way through a huge drop comes with harsh vocals and a lot of distortion put on the bass and synths. This song is very comparable to the album itself; wide ranging use and experimentalism of instruments, laid back but often harsh and deep vocals, and huge variation in styles – even within the songs themselves.
My favourite song on this album is, by a close margin, “Terrified”. The introduction gives a real sense of tension, of what sort is unknown until later. I think it’s the use of reverb, a sort of echo effect, gives you a feeling of loneliness and solidarity. Not necessarily a bad feeling, it could be interpreted as being lone to recoup from everything, and being terrified of going back to reality. I’ve always taken it to mean that. However, it can be interpreted to mean that you’re alone; that you have no one and nothing, and you should be terrified of something imminent.
All in all, this album is incredible. I consider it one of the best released this year, yet most only know it from two songs, and don’t appreciate it for what it is and can be, which genuinely upsets me a bit. This album should be listened from end to end, both actively and passively, there are so many vibes and feeling you can get out of it depending on how you’re thinking about it at the time.
See what else this year had to offer on our playlist!