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Review: Childish Gambino's Album, "Awaken, My Love!"

Updated on December 6, 2016
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The Gloriously Offbeat and Unstructured "Awaken, My Love!"

Currently staring in his self-created TV series 'Atlanta', actor, writer and comedian Donald Glover makes music under the name Childish Gambino.

Following up 2013 LP 'Because The Internet', the Californian releases his third studio album, ‘Awaken, My Love!’

‘Awaken, My Love!’ swarms with precise artistic ideas. Its plan of action is gloriously creative, offbeat and unstructured.

While the new record is never boring, it can feel restless.

It’s high activity occasionally interferes with the throwback vibe ‘Awaken, My Love!’ is lushly centred around.

A Bottomlessly Innovative Dedication to 70s Soul, Funk and Rock

Instead of being a soul record in its own right, ‘Awaken, My Love!’ is best thought of as a bottomlessly innovative dedication to 70s soul, funk and rock music.

Sections of ‘Awaken, My Love!’ are too affected, too self-aware (and arguably too smart) to organically channel the soulfulness the record is so intensely motivated by.

A slight void opens up because of that, and the endurance of certain cuts is affected.

‘Awaken, My Love!’ would be improved if it allowed ‘Redbone’ to inspire the rest of the tracklist a little more.

‘Redbone’ is one of a few tracks on ‘Awaken, My Love!’ in which all its elements sound as if they working to together to communicate the same message. As a result, the tune feels especially uncomplicated.

The album’s skippable efforts can sound as if they're in conflict their own vibration.

Their many concepts feel put together and researched as opposed to natural, which is how the album clearly wants to be perceived.

Childish Gambino's New Found Singing Capabilities

For all that though, the LP’s undeniably strong, retro production is slick, wholehearted and detailed.

Gambino’s soul, funk and rock heroes are represented confidently on ‘Awaken, My Love!’, they’re held up with the uttermost respect on ‘Riot’ and ‘Me And Your Mama’.

Unlike Gambino’s previous music releases ‘Awaken, My Love!’ features no rapping and is exclusively sung.

Childish Gambino’s new found confidence in his singing capabilities is a true revelation.

Gambino’s constantly convincing as a vocalist. The musician manoeuvres readily through a range of different temperments and sentiments.

Not only is the LP exciting for long-time fans, ‘Awaken, My Love!’ feels like an active experiment for Gambino himself.

The 33-year old comes across rejuvenated and unencumbered on quirky tracks ‘Zombies’ and ‘California’.

'Stand Tall’ sounds as if Gambino is releasing some sort of long held inner vision.

Photo: Brooke Nipar
Photo: Brooke Nipar

"Zombies" Amusingly Targets Life's Leeches

Featuring vocals from Arkansas rapper/producer Kari Faux, Gambino delivers a theatrical, almost cartoonish performance on the amusing ‘Zombies’.

Upon an unrushed vintage soul framework, the song colourfully calls out life’s emotional vampires and professional leeches.

Gambino straightforwardly labels them as creatures from the dead and warns listeners, “all they eat are people…they don't know what happened, they just stay alive”.

‘Zombies’ often feels like bizarre take on MJ’s ‘Thriller’.

The tune’s memorable instrumental peaks with an irregular guitar solo and outro section.

While 'Have Some Love' calls for togetherness, both ‘Boogieman’ and ‘Riot’ consciously explore racial tensions within today’s America.

The upheaval and disorder of the latter two tunes is reflected in their fevered instrumentals.

Vintage soul and deep funk number ‘Boogieman’ alludes to a general fear of African-Americans, as well as the problems that aversion creates.

The cut’s powerful instrumentation brings its sense of turmoil to life.

The Bedroom Eyes Intimacy of "Redbone"

Gambino drops a range of dynamic, howling soul screams over the hectic throwback soul/funk motif of two-minute highlight ‘Riot’.

The musician doesn’t hold back on the rousing track, he wholly commits to its busy fury.

Slighted by a sense of injustice and despairing at the state of the world, the lyrics of ‘Riot’ react to the year’s tumultuous news stories and events.

The conflict-free R&B of ‘Redbone’ is the LP’s high point.

All of the tune’s layers point to free-spirited sexuality and a bedroom eyes-type intimacy.

Gambino’s processed singing on the slow-jam drips in the casual, no-sweat appeal of soul music’s greats.

The tune is carnivorous, but posturing. Somehow it manages to tap into both a masculine and feminine sensuality.

The Sugar of "California" Proceeds The Medicine of "Terrified"

Gambino’s vocals are playfully altered and emphasised over the appropriately beachy, sun-kissed vibes of ‘California’.

Using the alt-pop track’s eccentric, but benign setup, the track’s loopy, instant carefree appeal transports listeners head first to the Golden State.

After the sugar of ‘California’, medicine is served in the form of ‘Terrified’.

Gambino’s exuberant performance doesn’t obstruct the song’s spooky, uneasy and predatory atmosphere.

It’s foreboding lyrics and darker mood depict a confused, trapped world from which its inhabitants cannot escape.

Beginning softly, ‘Stand Tall’ is a thoughtfully structured soul effort, which gradually morphs into something more experimental.

Together with Gambino’s wholesome, occasionally doctored singing, the track’s encouraging, supportive lyrics recall the pearls of wisdom issued to Gambino by his parents when he was younger.

Admittedly, its spirited metamorphosis can feel messy and indulgent, as if every creative idea Gambino’s ever had has been thrown into it.

Gambino Dedicates Unhurried Standout "Baby Boy" to His Son

Opening with exalted harmonies and unfettered funk guitar licks, ‘The Night Me And Your Mama Met’ becomes more vigorous as it opens up.

‘The Night Me And Your Mama Met’ lets listeners fill in most of its blanks. Still, it should sit comfortably within the background of most casual settings.

During its playtime the song manages to whip up a range reassuring, gutsy, meditative and forlorn moods - sometimes simultaneously.

Gambino rests on his cheeky falsetto again for unhurried standout ‘Baby Boy’, a track which provides lots of luscious, meditative musical space towards its finish.

The cut's desperate, pleading lyrics are made especially noteworthy and stirring due to the fact Gambino quietly became a father earlier in the year.

Verdict: ******* 7/10

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