Childish Gambino recently changed his name on his social media pages to his given name, Donald Glover. A seemingly insignificant move, but it signals something wider; with the release of his fourth album, “Awaken, My Love!”, Glover has finally found his feet. Where 2013’s because the internet was dominated by Childish Gambino’s dazzling bars, “Awaken, My Love!” is funkadelic, fresh and frill-less. He teased us with his singles ‘Me and Your Mama’ and ‘Redbone’. The album itself just goes to show that the Lord doth provide.
Glover allows himself to explore the depths and heights of his voice far more than his previous releases. In ‘Zombies’ he experiments with timbre and vocal effects to completely morph the sound of his voice into a different personality entirely; in the line “here they come behind you”, the rise and fall Glover puts on in his voice makes him sound like David Bowie circa Young Americans: such praise I do not dole out lightly. Throughout ‘California’ he switches easily from a strained higher pitch to a Fetty Wap-like deep tone. He doesn’t let his true voice be shown until the very last track, ‘Stand Tall’. His vocal versatility allows him to slip into the skins of different characters, wearing them confidently whilst still retaining that thing, that essential Donald Glover.
Glover is the master of musical deception. ‘Terrified’ starts off with a ‘Thriller’-like intro, falsely preparing us for all the drama and magnificence that would come along with such a track. But nay – he opts instead for an echo-y, ambient mood, dragging us into a fantasy world that pulls you under. This is especially true of ‘Me and Your Mama’, which moves through universes to get to its destination. And we, as listeners, can’t help but follow Childish Gambino wherever he thinks to lead us: his wish is our command.
“Awaken, My Love!” wears its influences proudly on its sleeve: Isaac Hayes to Funkadelic. Glover recently commented, “There’s something about that ‘70s black music that felt like they were trying to start a revolution.” I don’t know if he’s directly achieved this, but in shooting for the stars you land on the moon. Glover has produced a stellar album, his best yet, that bodes well for his future. I’ll start counting down the days till the next one.