Photo Credit: Pavielle Garcia
3.15.20 is a combination of early Kanye West, 80’s Prince and a sample of Zhane’s “Hey Mr. DJ.” It makes us reminisce about the good old days. At the same time, it feels like Donald Glover pushes the restart button with his “We are, we are, we are” intro in “0.00”, we’re in for a fresh new look at something we already knew. The smooth song transitions feel like swimming in one whole musical experience, rather than listening to separate pieces. The album really is like traveling: one minute you’re on a farm, the next – in outer space. Sounds of nature, a conversation with his son about love, and a romantic ballad – Glover helps us reflect on the things that matter. Great timing.
First releasing 3.15.20 on his website, then on all streaming platforms, it seems like Glover doesn’t aim for a #1 place in the charts. At times it feels like he’s still cooling down from 2018’s single “This Is America.” Most songs are labeled as the time that they appear on the album: it’s definitely easier to monetize a song called “It Feels Like Summer”, and way harder to “sell” it as “42.26”, as it’s called on the album. These titles encourage listeners to consume the project as a whole rather than hear the songs separately. Glover focuses on creating a piece of art instead of aiming to become a Grammy nominee.
The first full song is “Algorhythm.” The sound feels new and experimental – Prince meets Tyler, the Creator’s IGOR with a touch of gospel vocals at the end, all tied together by a sample of Zhane. The song breaks into digital space and fades out to a heartbeat, transitioning us into “Time”, that shows us what George Clinton could’ve sounded like with autotune. This song should be an anthem for millennials who are striving for success and trying to “make it”, that are quick to create and move on to the next thing. A real cherry on top is Brent Jones & The Best Life singers incorporated on the song (they have been previously featured on “Awaken, My Love”). This is where we first come across nature sounds mentioned earlier (Side note: if you want to dance, play “Open Your Mouth and Say Something” by Brent Jones and stand up. It’s the closest you’ll get to a dance party during this quarantine).
Listening to “12.38″ you can’t help but think of Prince, with all the high notes, humming and remarks like “Imma give you some privacy.” 21 Savage makes an appearance here, delivering one of the best verses on the album: “Most these n*ggas wanna run around with these SZAs (Yeah) // I prefer to just stroll the park with this Chaka.” This line hints on Glover being more inspired by older music. So many things are happening in the song, that you feel like you’re in a rocket ship at the end, or in the Space Jam section of a Warner Brother’s toy store in the 90’s.
Now “19.10” is where you start dancing. Kaytranada meets a soul-kissed version of Chromeo’s Head Over Heals album. In “24.19” we hear that “Redbone” voice again – Glover altering his vocals like only he can. A sweet and gentle ballad that ends with what feels like a panic attack. “33.22” is Yeezus meets African tribal drums meets Tyler, the Creator performing “New Magic Wand” at the 2020 Grammy’s. It’s a whole spiritual experience, almost religious. Not something we are used to hearing in pop music.
It looks like country-inspired “35.31” is the only song that isn’t PG (Glover sings about drugs). Otherwise, the album is quite clean for a modern hip-hop artist. Glover’s son is his audience now – children listen to Childish Gambino, too. The outro is packed with a reverse poem that unravels itself in “39.28”, a song seemingly inspired by Queen. It hints to the next track “42.26”, also known as the single “Feels Like Summer” that came out two years ago. Starting with animal sounds in the intro, the song is about global warming and ecology, a direct reminder of the heat anomaly.
“47.48” points out how cruel the world can be, and how powerful love and inner beauty are. A heartwarming conversation with Glover’s son about the importance of loving yourself is implemented, right before we are taken to the end of our journey. “53.49” is such a powerful finale to the album. Glover sings with expression about love in everything: the song sounds like a rock’n’roll gospel, and he’s the preacher. To call the album experimental is to say nothing at all. Glover occupies a space artists are afraid of, because it might be “too much” for the masses, it’s not something you would hear repeatedly on the radio. It’s a trip to some sort of industrial dystopia.