As an actor, Donlad Glover had a prosperous 2016 with his hit television show “Atlanta” on FX and brilliant casting as Lando Calrissian in the upcoming Han Solo, stand-alone Star Wars movie in 2018. He’s adding another notch on his belt with his latest release “Awaken, My Love!” under his musical alias Childish Gambino, reaching into a different direction vocally and sonically. Inspired by the popular 70s style of funk and soul that were made popular by artists such as Parliament, Rick James and Bootsy Collins.
“Me and Your Mama” offers a soulful opening to the album with Gambino delivering an emotional vocal performance where he lyrically uses the highs from marijuana as a metaphor for his love of a particular significant other. On “Have Some Love” Gambino preaches the love that we as individuals should have and share for one another, a message that carries weight during the tough times that we are facing in our country. The track itself feature great bass guitar, drums and organ performances that mix exceptionally well with Glover’s vocals.
“Boogieman” is a funk-filled track that contains excellent vocals along with added layers, making the beat flow even more with the creepy concept that it sells itself on. The next track, “Zombies,” follows a similar format, however the previous is more likable. While the production on the track is good, it misses some of the depth that could’ve made it more enjoyable. Gambino’s vocals, with the exception of the ending, meander along and after a few listens become boring. I wish that the some of the time put into “Zombies” could have been added or substituted for on the eclectic and upbeat “Riot.”
While the first half of the album is pretty good, it takes dip during the second half. Tracks such as “Redbone” and “Baby Boy” tend to overstay their welcomes as both last for over 5 minutes. While the vocal deliveries for both tracks are good, especially on “Baby Boy” where Gambino begins to express his feelings for his newborn who was born earlier this year. On the song “California” Gambino’s vocals don’t fit the soothing pop-like production that is presented on the track.
“Stand Tall” closes the album on a high note. Here, we find Gambino reminiscing on advice given to him by his parents when he was young. Throughout the song it seems that Gambino still cherishes this advice as he kept it stored in case he endures hardships along the way as a reminder to always stand tall and overcome adversity. Gambino saves his best vocals for last as he is accompanied by additional choir vocals as well. The beat is brought to life through a bass guitar and Rhodes piano that help add some depth along the way.
While “Awaken, My Love!” has some shortcomings, it’s Gambino’s most experimental work yet, as a result he may have carved out a new niche for himself to move forward in his career. While there is a lot going on for him entertainment-wise as Donald Glover, he still manages to find a balance as Childish Gambino the artist. For fans, this is a sign that they will get the best of the both worlds.