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Review: Childish Gambino goes in new, weird direction with ‘Awaken, My Love!’

Review: Childish Gambino goes in new, weird direction with Awaken, My Love!

Sometimes, you just feel the need to change things up. You feel like experimenting, having new experiences and seeing the world in a different way. Artists often epitomize this mindset, and musician Childish Gambino, aka Donald Glover, has certainly done such in his ambitious new album, “Awaken, My Love!”, that was released Friday Dec. 2.

This is Gambino’s third studio album, a highly anticipated follow-up album to 2013’s revolutionary Because The Internet. In that album, as well as in 2011’s Camp, Gambino seemed to get more and more comfortable with his sound and style, perfecting his signature, catchy choruses and clever lyrics infused with profound meditations on life and bursts of poetic rapping.

However, in this new record, Gambino seems to turn around everything that we thought we knew about him as an artist.

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“Awaken, My Love!” sounds unlike anything ever heard from Gambino, and sometimes feels like nothing ever heard before. The resulting album comes across as highly experimental in style, with each track doing something completely different from the last.

Gambino’s voice and lyrical style seems to also change from track to track, to the point where it sometimes becomes hard to tell whether he is even the one singing.

With elements of rap, funk, rock, soul, gospel (and who knows what else) all meshed together, the album’s uniqueness unabashedly shines through.

The opening track “Me and Your Mama” starts off on a slow, mystical note before turning into something else completely. The track becomes filled with catchy guitar riffs uncharacteristic of Gambino’s typical sound and we also get the first of the many voices Gambino employs throughout the record. He gives us a heavy dose of soul and gospel with tracks like “Boogieman” and “Have Some Love” with background hymns that may make you feel like you just arrived at Sunday church service.

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The journey continues from track to track as Gambino takes the listener to places like the soulful and surprisingly catchy “Redbone” as well as the very interesting track “Zombies,” one of the strangest and most intriguing songs on the album. In this one, Gambino sings about his fear of zombies and the lack of place he can hide from them, before background singers swoop in with the apparently insightful lyrics, “We’re eating you for profit, there is no way to stop it.”

It seems unclear exactly what point Gambino is attempting to make with this song or who exactly the zombies refer to. He may have said something deep, profound and intellectual, or he may have just wanted to pay tribute to the zombie fetish of popular culture.

Gambino, became a dad earlier this year and he seems to address that fact in the track “Baby Boy.”

The album ends with the calm and meditative “Stand Tall,” leaving listeners wondering exactly what the hell they just listened to, and whether they found it amazing, terrible, groundbreaking or just plain strange.

The album pushes musical boundaries in new and exciting ways. It will certainly not please everyone, and will likely even fail to please many of Gambino’s devoted fans.

Even so, it still proves Gambino’s versatility as an artist and his ability to think outside the box. This album has a lot going on. Some good, some not so good, and some just confusing. Give it a listen to see for yourself the strange and wonderful uniqueness of Gambino’s sound.

Grade: C+


Follow Alec Kuehnle on Twitter.


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