Recommend if you like: Parliament-Funkadelic, Red Hot Chili Peppers, Frank Ocean
Expectation: The third full-length album from actor/writer/rapper/singer/producer Donald Glover, aka Childish Gambino. Glover announced some time ago that he was considering moving on from rapping to another type of music, and here he follows through on that claim with a complete album of George Clinton inspired funk/soul/rock.
- Me and Your Mama – The lead single and lead track on the project is an immediate test for fans; Glover withholds from putting his own voice on the track for over two minutes, an idea also seen on Big Boi’s Speakerboxxx that gives his entrance a huge impact. What follows is a show of pure love for soul music that was written when rock ruled the mainstream, as Bino’s screlting vocals are accompanied by riffing electric guitars and wailing background vocalists.
- Have Some Love – An easy-going jam that will fit more people’s idea of ‘soul music’, with really nice harmonies, a relaxed acoustic guitar, and a drum beat that is so perfect for the groove that at first you don’t even notice it.
- Boogieman – Another cool jam, though I didn’t like the hook here as much as other tracks. The bass line is pretty fun though.
- Zombies – Still good, but kind of a filler track.
- Riot – A chaotic, messy, but very fun jam, reminiscent of an early Chili Peppers song.
- Redbone – First of all, cortales were a beautiful choice and absolutely make the song. Gambino channels his inner Erykah Badu, and its beautiful.
- California – Glover tries his hand at the happy, goofy hip hop/R&B sound thats seen a boom lately thanks largely to DRAM, and its a lot of fun. You can’t understand a word he says and his vocal delivery is almost sarcastic, but any song that pairs a funky guitar with a funky pan flute is going to be fun.
- Terrified – An electrifying ballad track with especially solid guitar work and a great outro purportedly sung by 9 year-old JD McCrary.
- Baby Boy – Steering closer to Motown soul than the rest of the album, even if the resemblance really only shows through in the chorus. Some of Glover’s best vocal work on the album.
- The Night Me and Your Mama Met – If you’re confused why the entire song is essentially just a sexy guitar riff, reread the song title.
- Stand Tall – Saving his “normal” voice for the final track was a cool idea, and the result is a very honest, touching closer. The autotuned section sounds great too, although the track loses some momentum after that. In all honesty, the track probably should have ended after the first section or after the autotune, but the rest of it is still pretty cool, particularly the final stretch with the acoustic guitar. That ending is weird though.
Overall: While I’m a fan of Glover’s previous work, this is undoubtedly my favorite release from him so far. His take on Parliament-style funk/rock/soul has a lot of room to mature, but considering the majority of his help was just Ludwig Goransson, its extremely impressive that Awaken, My Love! sounds so polished. Actually, I want to talk about Goransson for a second: for those unaware, Goransson has co-produced almost all of Childish Gambino’s music, and provides the excellent guitar work that defined much of the sonic palate for both this album and Because the Internet. These two together create the excellent rendition of 70’s soul, filtered through modern production approaches and Glover’s own unique quirk, that you hear on this album. If you’re open to listening to that, then check this album out. If you aren’t and you’re currently whining on Twitter that artists progress, feel free to retreat to your comfort zone while the rest of us enjoy the music.