The Sonic Breakdown
Written By DeRa Brinson
Donald Glover also known as the artist/rapper Childish Gambino came out with a thoughtful and humorous second studio album Because the Internet. That album was a very good sophomore album that had an interesting perspective and full of creativity. Many people might be like me and know of him first as an actor/comedian then later found out his musical gifts. He is a renaissance man in my opinion as an actor on the television show Community, writer on 30 Rock, stand up comic Wierdo, creator/producer/writer/director of (GREAT FX Show) Atlanta, upcoming Star War’s role as Lando and rapper/artist has three studio albums Camp, Because the Internet and Awaken My Love!. The latest album Awaken, My Love! the title alone really explains the atmosphere that is created when listening. It is awakening the consciousness and supplying the soul or heart. This albums takes you on a 48 minute magical ride akin to the scene in Willy Wonka with the boat going through the tunnel of lights but instead of an outsider we are seeing it from the perspective of Willy Wonka mixed with a soulful genre bending experience. Take a ride with thesonicbreakdown.com as we Breakdown this magical journey Childish Gambino takes us on. I will present a breakdown of each track followed by a conclusion on the album as a whole.
“Me and Your Mama”
The album eases you into the majestic journey with one of the singles “Me and Your Mama” released prior to the album debut date. The ease is just not from the familiarity that you have with a song you have heard before but also the starry sound and feel that expands with a smooth bass line accompanied by Childish Gambino falsetto. If you been following Gambino like I have you can see him gradually improving on the range and control of his voice which is evident here. Another example of him pushing his vocals was on his cover of Tamia “So Into You” which he released in 2015. Sections of the vocals where his gives that rock strained scream with so much intensity but blended the guitar pulling you in tighter on this intro track for “Awaken, My Love!”. The guitar expounds upon the Jimi Hendrix Experienced emoting all around. This song and every song on the album has some many dynamics expanding one track to feel like multiple without leaving you feeling overwhelmed. Little details that add so much at the right time, a detail like the addition of the tambourines combined with the lyric of a man professing his love. The title I enjoyed due to it reminding me of the Outkast line from “Elevators” “Me and You, your mama and you cousin too” still bringing in some hip hop references to a non hip hop album which is a departure to a degree from previous albums. Even though if you listen to STN MTN / Kauai you could have some idea that he was pushing his musical boundaries already.
“Have Some Love”
The track Have Some Fun has a funky bass line giving room for a Sly and the Family stone atmosphere that is fluid enough that towards that second half Gambino can switch from the breathy staccato in the beginning to a more smooth sound. Most of the tracks provide an authentic kind of feeling from the 70’s with a vibe usually only found by sampling heavily.
Now one of my favorite tracks at the :45 second mark the slight adding and switching layer of the high keys in the production is intoxicating and so Childish Gambino voice is reminiscent of Bootsy Collins and George Clinton blended into such a funky but yet smooth funk.
Oooozzing of that Prince essences! Another stand out tracks which actually, right now might be my favorite. The tone is very Rick James with content that rides of the metaphor of zombies being gold digger or muchers/leeches for success, money and fame. Terrified is a close number two of favorites and sometime is number one. The reasoning being Prince oozes! (I know, I said it already) through every pore of this tracks production and vocal by Mr. Glover. I have to give credit to a guy at my physical therapy that informed me that this track has parts similar to a band I love because of my Aunt which was Earth Wind and Fire’s “Can’t Hide Love”.
Upon first listening I heard that rock feels giving me a little Lenny Kravitz that is felt strongest in the beginning. Gambino seems to be urging us to take action in some way. The line of “Everyone just wants a better life” really stood out because that is what it boils down to is we all just want to live a good life. People of color, the LGBTQ, all just want to not just feel but have the same rights and freedoms that will give way to privileges that currently bestowed upon us currently. This why I said in the intro the album also awakens your consciousness to think and challenge why as well as what you believe in. Things you will believe in enough to riot about.
Bootsy Collins is felt in the bass line that carries through into the way Childish Gambino finishes the lines of each stanza. A very smooth track that you can definitely ride to and let your problem wash away. The melody allows an auro that is relaxing.
Has a reggae with lightness that floats that is absent in the rest of the album. In the beginning I didn’t feel that connection to the rest of the album and felt out of place. As the album grow on me and took a look at the placement it made sense. It still is one of my least favorite tracks of the album.
A strong 80’s r&b, a touch of Prince with some Atlantic Star all coming together providing a lovely song that possess a darkness and mystery allowing for sexual edginess. Again it is the small details that elevate the production such as the xylophone placement being so delicately placed in the layers of the production.
Here Childish Gambino showcases more of the range and control of his voice not seen to this extent on previous studio albums. He has a D’Angelo raspy sound that contributes to the soulful and desperation of not wanting to lose is son. This is very emotional charge song but a loving and also about lack of control. The guitar solo is impactful in the fact it is adding to Gambino’s relinquishing of control in the song to allow such a long solo. A wonderful song adding to a wonderful album.
“The Night Me and Your Mama Met”
An explorative track that builds of and is surrounding a guitar chord. A chorus harmonizes in and out as an electric guitar hits you with an impressive solo. This allows an interesting dynamic for this instrumental track, exposing the musicality that is missed in today music at times. The journey is not over but this track does give you the indication we are almost at the destination.
This to me is the first track that Gambino uses the typical singing voice most are accustomed with from previous albums in section especially in the beginning. When I first heard the layer of “Strawberry letter 23” which I first heard in an artist I loved as a kid was Tevin Campbell but which is from the original by Shuggie Otis. This sent me down memory lane when I used to sing it to girls or made mixtapes with it. That provide a moment to reminisce and then you get a sudden alter to the production adding in the Ron Burgandy (lol) flute that adds a lightness and sense of hope. That is then followed by another pause to give room for another layer to be added giving depth. The track keeps growing and evolving. You can sense at this time it is getting close to the end of the magical journey but a not sad but happy and joyful for the experience.
This albums touches on so many sounds that evoke musical memories of my youth heard from family and parents that shape how I internalize music like Prince, Jimi Hendrix, Rick James, George Clinton and Sly & The Family Stone. Something I really enjoy is the thought and precision mixed with innovation that Donald Glover applies when planning every album. That creates an environment for an experience. On Because the Internet he had an online script that went with the album. On this album he did it again with sound and the addition of the app Pharos that gives you a vr concert or 360 view of Childish Gambino performing a track of this album. It has wonderful visuals that add to the experience and match the mood the track. All of the tracks evolve within themselves some more than other creating the journey and creating the illusion of more space. My favorite tracks that evolve and switch because I truly enjoy the entire album outside of the two singles are “Zombies”, “Terrified” and “Boogieman”. This is a GREAT album but only can tell if it is a classic with time. It hit as I stated in the beginning awaking the mind and feeding the heart or soul. Come back and check out the next review. Leave a comment and let thesonicbreakdown know what you about this breakdown of Childish Gambino Awaken, My Love!