Sunday, 4 December 2016

THE BIG REVIEW in the #ESPspotlight: 'Awaken, My Love!' by Childish Gambino

Oh, how good it is to be back! Have you missed me? Because I've missed you darlings, and after not having the use of my arms or hands for the last 9 days, I can honestly tell you, to be able to deliver this to you is a beautiful miracle within itself. Now then, to business. I have been in love with Donald Glover aka Childish Gambino, ever since I saw his skinny frame do a turn as 'Andre' in my personal favourite flick of 2015 (I'm not going to mention the title of it, but just know that it was XXL for good no, great measure, my ponies...); I realise this makes me late to the party, but hey - how else does one make an entrance?!

Childish Gambino's Awaken, My Love! wins the award for creepiest album cover...
Having listened to John Legend's new album Darkness and Light earlier, it struck me that in comparison to Childish Gambino's opening track , Legend's was so...well, for want of a better term - blah! Most people would substitute that with vanilla, but here's the thing, vanilla is one of my favourite flavours, I think it's deeelish; so here's what I'm going to do. I'm going to substitute vanilla with a lesser loved, bland flavour, in my humble opinion, like...Chocolate. I'm going to compare the opening of John Legend's album flavour to chocolate. Not the good, Ferrero Rocher kind of chocolate, obviously; I'm talking the 26p, supermarket own brand stuff, that only tastes of bicarbonate of soda and butter.

Gambino's opener, Me and Your Mama on the other hand; aside from the disturbing, never to be considered connotations evoked by that title, delivered a boot to your face opener that you feel way deep in your spleen - Bluesy, soulful, and dripping with Prince-esque, melodic screams of pain; this, is vanilla music, my friends, and it's sumptuously, finger lickin' good.

Have Some Love begins with a thick drum beat, followed by a choir intro straight out of the deep South. Gambino begins with a quiet vocal growing from the background, delivered in a staccato beat against the backdrop of the 70's funk beat. By the time he reaches the forefront, the choir returns, and you realise that they are delivering the chorus, singing deep and true about spreading love amongst your fellow man, and in your community.

By the intro of Boogieman you're fairly sure that Glover was high when he recorded this album. Yes, I know, all the signs were there, but I missed them - what can I say, I'm sober. The Hendrix meets Mayfield-like production treatment of 70's Soul+Funk+Rock is psychedelic love pouring through your speakers; all you're missing is a lava lamp and an afro.

If ever there was proof of the loftiness of Gambino's state of mind, Zombies is it. Whilst there is an argument to be made that there is a deeper, existential level on which the true meaning of this song lies, ie. some reference to the corporate suits sucking an artist's creativity dry for profit, For the most part, you just think he's lost in a purple haze.

Riot sounds like a Black Panther cry in 2016. A musically political statement, it's a black leather glove-clad fist in the air to socialism and the socioeconomic state of people, as a whole, around the world.

Redbone has a great, catchy melody to back the metaphorical lyrics, which I must admit, did take a second listen for me to really grasp. Talking to a lady who won't give him any sweet good loving; Gambino waits for the duration of the first verse, but by the second, he's over it, and it's her turn to persuade him to stick around. I guess you could say that he comes full circle, if you know what I'm saying...

California exudes the State's sunshine through the production, which samples Charles Wright's 'Express Yourself' for it's effective sound. The characterisation that Gambino employs for this, and every song thus far are part of what make this album as prolific as it is in terms of good fantasy-filled songs. It's odd, but captivating, and you cannot wait to see where he is going to take it all next.

In this case, it's to track number eight, entitled Terrified. Led by an eerie bass, Gambino sings as smoothly as MJ on Thriller, only way more frightening when he suddenly talks about eating you,,,the production is stellar, the backing track a beautifully mellow composition filled with muted Soulful instruments, that contribute to make a ridiculously hot track. The anonymous female vocal adds a slick touch that turns this into a masterpiece.

Baby Boy is an ode to a newborn on the brink of losing his father to the law, completely throwing you from where you thought the track was going to go lyrically. The direction takes you completely by surprise, and as you listen to the track being played on the harpsichord, you can't help but think that if this album doesn't walk away with a serious award collection, then someone clearly isn't listening. The bass-led track screams the pain of loss through the instruments, and makes you feel every single ounce of it - Exemplary.

The Night Me and Your Mama Met is a soft, funk-based, soul-filled track that makes you think of being on the beach at night, with the waves lapping all around you; and by the time the harmonies start, it's as if the very sea is singing to you itself. The electric guitar is haunting and spellbinding, telling a 'when our eyes first met across a crowded room' story that plays out in your own mind.

Album closer, Stand Tall is the only track where Gambino dispenses with the persona, and is himself. His voice is beautiful, rich, roughly textured, and raspy. Andre is back in the building Ladies and Gentlemen, and even though the topic is of the message passed down first from Father to Son, then from Mother, it is seductive beyond belief. The reverb adds legendary finesse to the depth of his tone, and the range he displays is smooth and reminiscent of Mr Marvin Gaye himself. Truly beautiful work.


When musicians talk of creating art, this is the type of work to which they aspire. Childish Gambino's album completely surpasses most of the albums that have come out this year. It sounds like nothing else we have heard, with the exception of Solange's A Seat At the Table (look for a little something special coming on that before the end of the year) and is in a league completely of it's own. This is an artist to watch people - and not just because he's a genius with a serenade about women named Caroline...

Until the next...