Childish Gambino: 3.15.20 Album Review
After the elusive stream that appeared on DonaldGloverPresents.com for 12 hours earlier this month, Childish Gambino has officially dropped his latest album 3.15.20. The album is available on all the usual streaming platforms as well as a continuous stream being placed back up on Donald Glover Presents. Donald Glover has long vowed that his next project would be the last under the moniker ‘Childish Gambino’ and it seems like 3.15.20 is it. While the online stream of the album was accredited to Donald Glover (and appeared as though it would be titled ‘Donald Glover Presents’), the official release is attributed to Childish Gambino; it seems Glover is finally dropping the veil between himself and his alter-ego. With all but two tracks having their titles replaced by just a timestamp, a blank white album cover and no official credit paid to Ariana Grande and 21 Savage for their features on ‘Time’ and ‘12.38’, this no-frills album lets the music do the talking.
The album has notes of all the flavours of Childish Gambino we know – from rap-heavy tracks with aggressive beats to chart-ready pop hits, and even touches on a country-style melody in ‘35.31’. All of the tracks are laced with thought-provoking sentiments, which comes as no surprise as Glover has always used music as a platform to share his views on the state of society, politics, love and life. In ‘Algorthym’, he speaks on the signing away of our lives to technology; on ‘19.10’ he expresses his endless struggle with self-love and on ‘47.48’ we are allowed to listen in on a raw and pure conversation between Glover and his son about what it means to love.
Above: The Full Album
The album is a blend of cheerful beats that are reminiscent of ‘Kaui’ Gambino, and earthier tracks that follow on nicely from the artist’s most recent release ‘This Is America’ back in 2018. Tracks like ‘32.22’, with a mighty bass and inaudible lyrics - almost an assault on your earbuds – are balanced by lighter, carefree tracks such as ‘Feels Like Summer’, which was released as part of Gambino’s Summer Pack in 2018 and has been rebranded as ‘42.26’ in the album.
‘12.38’ featuring 21 Savage hears Childish Gambino amusingly talk of his experience of taking shrooms with a cutie, while Savage uses the opportunity to speak on his stacks of cash - nothing new here, but he bodies the beat. On ‘24.19’, Gambino questions whether he is deserving of his girl’s love in this lovey-dovey slow jam that ends with a minute of what sounds like Gambino climaxing. ‘19.10’ has a poppy beat that acts as a moment of levity in the album before it transcends into the more niche second half, and is sure to appeal to both long-time Childish Gambino fans as well as new listeners. The closing track ‘53.49’ leaves us with hard-hitting raps from Glover and a killer hook that wraps up the album - and potentially Childish Gambino as an artist - perfectly.
3.15.20 is a risky album. It’s filled with beats that make for relaxed listening juxtaposed with lyrics that literally invite you to question the way we’re living our lives. It feels like every listen of the album could evoke a different response in the listener. The project definitely won’t appeal to every fan and most of the songs are unlikely to chart well, bar ‘19.10’ which – if Glover wants the album to be any fraction of a success - he should make the first single. But charting probably wasn’t what he was aiming for with this project. As the album was evidently meant to be streamed in its entirety, the tracks don’t really make sense outside of the album… but I’m not sure that they do as a complete project either; this is definitely the artist’s least refined work. I can’t tell if the album and Glover’s marketing strategies is a cryptic, calculated stroke of genius and we should commend him on refusing to subscribe to the industry’s, labels’ and fans’ expectations, or if he’s just produced a throwaway album and committed artistic suicide. If this really is the last project we get from Donald Glover as Childish Gambino, he’s left us on a weird one – but with plenty of food for thought and beats to get us through the summer.