Recently a politician exclaimed the need for a revolution in America. While that seemed to resonate with many, there’s many who feel that the click track based way in which modern music is made could also use a makeover. If you look at music as art, then finding true art can be difficult in a sea of same ol’ same ol’. There are few artists on the higher plane of the spectrum who can release an artful album while maintaining their stardom. It seems with the release of 3.15.20, Childish Gambino could be such an artist. The album, and R&B meets grime rap cluster of sounds reimagines what modern hip hop can sound like while revolutionizing the genre at the same time.
For starters, the album is a complete reset for what you’re expecting. While “This Is America” was a banger, here Donald Glover takes off the kid gloves and goes deep into a world of his own creation. The opening song “0.00” is an electronic symphony of ambient tones and modulated vocals. Almost like something that would open a Daft Punk set, the song is peaceful and calming, while offering up something that’s like nothing you’re ready for. The arrangements of “Algorhythm” alone should clue you into the fact that the album is different. The dark electronica mixed with synth infused vocals offer up something different while the beat pulls you in. The backing falsetto vocals add to the lustre here, drawing you closer as the song plays out and twists into techno and acid rap elements.
The album seems to follow it’s own path. “19.10”is a funky bop that intertwines funk and R&B like if you took a little too many hits, “32.22” takes off on a syncopated riff with whispered vocals that’s like a fever dream. The album is littered with elements like vocals samples and trash electronics that pulsate and reverberate into something new and fresh. “35.31” is on another planet, almost like a bop made for children, the song has multiple layers of pop elements while the catchy nature of the track means you won’t forget it soon after it ends. This is followed with an astral funk track “39.28” that’s like R&B from another galaxy. The vocal lead track reinvents choral vocals in a way that’s closest to music from the soundtrack for Xanadu. But while all of the seventies and eighties elements fall throughout the album, it almost comes off like an opera of one artist expanding into the unknown.
A great example of this comes on the song “Time.” While Glover takes electronic notes that feel like those from an eighties dance club, it’s how he mixes multiple vocalists including himself to craft a track that reminds you of the past while forging its own path forward. In fact, that’s kind of the narrative of the entire album. Even on the piano jazz of “47.48” Glover rewrites what the slow jam can be by utilizing sounds fro another era and repurposes them here for his own tone. The entire album is full of such ideas, culminating into one statement of pure art that cannot be overlooked.
3.15.20 is available to stream on all streaming platforms or it can be purchased digitally in all outlets via RCA Records.
Image Credits: Photo by Pavielle Garcia.