Childish Gambino - 3.15.20
Mar 22, 2020
I always want to believe that Donald Glover is doing something unique and possibly revolutionary whenever I am able to witness or hear something that has this wonderful creative's hands in it.
No one can deny that Donald has arguably been one of the best, or at least most versatile figures in pop culture this generation. However, I don't feel that Mr. Glover has come through with anything quite so fantastic this time around. A lot of times this album can become disorienting, and I don't mean that as a compliment the same way it could be applied to an Against All Logic or Aphex Twin project. Overall this album has almost zero cohesion and really offers nothing that warrants it to be an hour long. There were too many instances of me just wishing this album was closer to being over to warrant a positive review here. This first three quarters of this record are really just a slog for the most part with very little in the way of highlights. That's my short form review if you want to read the rest go ahead.

Donald Glover a.k.a Childish Gambino tries his hand at combining neo-funk psychedelic elements with pop and hip hop appeal, recruiting notable features like Ariana Grande and 21 Savage. Let me begin my in depth critique on a positive note by saying that most of this record sounds pretty good on the production front, albeit some of the elements not meshing as well as was intended. It's just a shame that the material on here doesn't really become that intriguing until the last 15 minutes of the record. By the time I was getting really excited about some of the material on here, the record was ending. Let me just say though those last 15 minutes are pretty fantastic, and yes I'm including "Feels Like Summer" in that. Yea, it's been out for 2 years but that doesn't mean it's not a good-ass song. There wasn't very much about the first two thirds or so of this album that really grabbed my interest unfortunately. There's some praise-worthy elements like the Ariana Grande feature, or the dystopian electronic production on the 2nd track. The unorthodox method of employing 21 Savage on that bouncy, bubbly beat, I thought that was pretty a matter of fact that whole 4th track was pretty good.

Now, while there are some things to praise about this album, allow me to spend the rest of this review explaining my nuanced distaste for most of the record. I think a lot of this record can be boiled down into a "this sounded better in my head" kind of thing. While the record sounds decently fleshed out and *ahem* expensive, I'm not sure what concept I'm supposed to be grasping here, if there IS any concept to grasp. Maybe this thing is just a collection of cool sounding derivative glop with zero direction, because that's the way it sounds to me. Let me be clear, I didn't find any singular song on this record to be bad or grating in it's own right, I think the ultimate failure of this record is the seemingly unintentional bumbling lack of cohesion on it. Frankly the record's failure to be anything remotely cohesive other than the fact that all the songs are on the same track list makes this esoteric out-of-nowhere release seem even more pretentious than may have been intended. In a lot of ways this record reminds me of Jaden Smith's SYRE, in that there are some cool ideas and the money in order to try to execute them but unfortunately a lot of it just comes out sounding like a poor imitation of something better.

My biggest issue that I'm trying to emphasize obviously is: What is the point of this album? I was reading some of the comments underneath the long-form release on YouTube, and someone said this record feels like a "Psychedelic Neo-Funk Yeezus". Now, that might be somewhat accurate if Yeezus had failed at creating cohesive themes throughout it's run time, but Yeezus has extremely clear themes that are emphasized strongly on the entire LP. If your only factor for feeling like this a great record, or in some way comparable to something like Yeezus is that it's "experimental" I highly suggest you reevaluate giving educated opinions on music. Or I'll go fuck myself. Whichever. I'm getting off track, and I don't mean to sound preachy, but there's really nothing that unique about this record to begin with. I don't find myself thinking of this album in an experimental vain. It's just a collection of mostly generic (which is not what usually comes to my mind when thinking of Donald Glover) R&B and pop-funk songs, a few of them have a distinct sound or a relevant message and most of them don't.

There doesn't have to be something completely unique, or relevant, or even generally substantive to make an album or an artist great (See: Playboi Carti, Chief Keef, Isaiah Rashad, etc.) I'm not saying that. However, certain artists certainly create expectations for themselves, and those expectations undoubtedly have an effect on how we (and I) receive their art. Nothing about this project stuck with me, if I want cool Gambino pop-rap I'll just go listen to Because the Internet. If I want psychedelic, nostalgic, well-executed neo-funk Gambino, I'll just go listen to his last record. Everything on here seems so derivative...and it's derivative of his own previous work, except it was more well-executed on his past records in my opinion. There just wasn't much for me on this new record unfortunately. Sorry this was long, and sorry if you think I'm pretentious or a hater or something, as a whole this just wasn't it. I'm gonna go listen to "Awaken, My Love!" See ya.
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