Childish Gambino - 3.15.20
Mar 22, 2020 (updated Mar 23, 2020)
Go back to sleep, Donald.

Among the arguments that can be used to criticize a record, there is one - after the hypocritical "it's ... peculiar" - which particularly irritates me: "It's soulless". When someone says that to me, especially about an album I like, I just want to punch him in the face and make him go around his underpants three times in the direction of Pyongyang; hello the lapidary statement to which you can only answer a no less sterile one: "Uh no,... in fact... there is a soul..". Where is the soul hiding? Between two notes? In vocal intonations? In production? Or worse, in the "sincerity" of the artist? All right, okay. Now that I've said that, I have a confession to make: I'm not entirely clean in this matter. Not only have I already used this expression myself, wrongly, to show off without having to justify myself, but in this case the first words that come to mind when I think of Donald Glover's new album are these: "soulless". So to avoid this nightmare scenario in which, with a shyamalan-esque twist, I would become my own Nemesis, I'm going to try to elaborate the reasons why I think "Donald Glover Presents (3.15.20)" is a mediocre album which lacks the little something, the little personal spark (basically the 'soul' lol).

A bit of context first, to help grasp the polarizing reactions of everyone to this album that nobody was expecting, this Sunday in the middle of general confinement. Donald Glover aka Childish Gambino is, in chronological order, first a comic actor - the best of you will have already seen him cavorting in the role of Troy in "Community". A TV series that he will leave to live his dream: to break into music. Evolving in pop rap and abstract hip-hop, Donald makes a real breakthrough with his album "Because the Internet", a nerd concept album that attracts both sympathy and disenchantment from a large number of Internet users. As divided as his audience may be, Gambino is an intriguing artist and it was not with "Awaken, My Love" that he changed his polarising nature. Glover had abandoned hip-hop altogether and released a highly consensual funk album in 2016. The artist was therefore expected at the turn, and, lacking inspiration after 4 years of absence, decided to put all his discography in a mixer and then mix it with the music of artists he admires and throw the mixture directly into our ears. This is "3.15.20". We can't help but think of various references to Kanye West, Anderson .Paak, Tyler The Creator or even older funk artists like Funkadelic or Sly & The Family Stone. And it's not as if the guy is hiding these inspirations; "3.15.20" is filled to the brim with the pop rap and neo-soul gimmicks that these rappers have popularized over the last decade. I have to admit that Glover is gifted in giving himself the means to faithfully reproduce these sounds; the production is cool, the bass is groovy, the guitar reverb is just right, the soul choirs are up to the task... But it seems that Donald has overestimated his ability to breathe soul into this collection of neat gimmicks and to carry this legacy while adding his own personal touch.

Yet God knows it started well, the almost ambient Kanye-esque intro "0.00" and then "Algorythm", easily the best song of the album, starts the record with an excellent saturated funky production, a cold groove and a rather impressive performance of Gambino himself who raps in a dark way with industrial intonations on the verses and sings with his famous high-pitched voice on the chorus, making tawny cries and tickling the extremities of his vocal spectrum. The end of the track, however, will sadly reveal the disappointments to come: the vocals go crazy and the instrumentation stretches unnecessarily until a rather disgusting finale with industrial experimentations totally useless. The rest of the record will be divided between slight boredom shaken by too short bright spots, or by episodic horrors (especially one in fact: "32.22", Gambino who imitates "Yeezus" in a pitiful way, it makes me want to vomit, easily on the podium of the worst songs of the year). It's a succession of demos that suffer cruelly from concept, incomplete songs whose initial ideas weighs in the balance to make a song a success or a failure. On its peaks, "3.15.20" shines when the songs are finished and have a structure. On "Algorhythm" and "Time", the catchiness is here and gives life to the groove. But once you get past these two songs, things get more complicated... All the soul ballads are too long and soft. "Feels Like Summer", which was already really corny when it was released in 2018, becomes frankly cringe on top of being boring, with Glover adding chicken noises in random mode, as if it was funny. "12.38" stretches for no reason with a bunch of lame experiments at the end, "24.19" has a chorus of absolute platitude, as for "35.31" it's just a very generic pop ballad with a guitar that repeats 4 chords in the void. And then... and then there's... (*inspires, exhales*)... And then there's "32.22" HOLY SHIT !!! not a coincidence if the worst song of the album is also the one with the cringeest vocals, I let you see for yourself, it's quite indefensible. A song like "39.28" could have been very good, in the burlesque gospel genre with its deliberately stupid choirs, but as soon as Donald gets into it, it becomes flat.

Anyway, I won't say any more about that; this record would have deserved more punch, concept and structure. When I'll meet you in the street and I'll tell you that this record is "soulless", I hope you'll understand better now what I mean by that, there's an intention of imitating the masters, Gambino is a guy who not only doesn't know how to get rid of his influences, but who doesn't even know how to rise up to make a good copy of them. Anyway, I hope that if I really meet you in the street we'll talk about something else than the latest Childish Gambino album!

Best tracks: "Algorhythm", "Time", "24.19", "53.49".

Worst track: "32.22"
WhatTheFunk's Tags
Mar 24, 2020
Maybe it'll grow on me...but for now I could not agree more.
6d ago
wow obviously you're not gonna like it. you're a damn Nazi Dr. Strangelove
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