Childish Gambino: 3.15.20 (RCA) Review | Under the Radar - Music Magazine
Sunday, May 31st, 2020  

Childish Gambino

3.15.20

RCA

Apr 01, 2020 Web Exclusive Bookmark and Share


As if it’s not good enough to be between good and great at nearly everything he attempts, now Donald Glover has to go be fucking Nostradamus, too? With 3.15.20, Glover’s latest record as Childish Gambino (or maybe as “Donald Glover” or “Donald Glover Presents”... there’s some debate), he seems to have predicted the isolation all responsible people are facing right now, delivering a humble offering of loneliness-as-solidarity. It appears we’ll be spending summer 2020 fending off a plague and keeping distance from each other, and Glover has improbably found a way to make a record for that summer, something that feels like a sunny day and dystopia in equal measure.

3.15.20 is designed to appear tossed off. It was first streamed on a loop on Glover’s website, hoping to yield a “communal vibe” as everyone heard it simultaneously; now that it’s been released to streaming services, most of the track titles are timestamps, the cover a simple white block. Maybe these songs were never meant to be a record, and are instead a grip of songs he happened to have in the can, which all happened to loosely touch on the general subject of isolation? Could it be that this music was hastily cobbled into a collection only when the COVID-19 writing was on the wall?

Could be, but it sure doesn’t feel like it. The music feels fully realized, the arc of the album probably Glover’s most coherent and adventurous yet. In fact, 3.15.20 has all the earmarks of what rockist critics tend to idealize in an album: the Sgt. Pepper’s psychedelic flow, the post-genre exploring, the conceptual heft. If one could argue that 3.15.20 reveals a growing penchant for Kanye-esque dilettantism—dipping its toes into Death Grips-style abrasion on one end, reaching out for touches of Tropical House, Frank Ocean, and sun-dappled Disney singalongs on the other—it’s all carried off with Glover’s winking confidence, not to mention a damn sight less narcissism than Yeezy.

Besides, what’s the harm in ordering the sampler platter and getting all the good stuff? What, ya never heard a Beatles record? All told, the previous Childish Gambino LP, 2016’s “Awaken, My Love!”, suffered a tad from being too focused, leaning too heavily on its ’70s funk/soul inspirations. Here, he’s taken all those influences and dragged them into the present day, catching an awful lot of Prince and Andre 3000’s wildest impulses in his net along the way.

There are only a few guests on 3.15.20, but they make the most of their moment. “Time,” a duet with Ariana Grande, boils over with the aforementioned Purple One’s energy, riding a beat that sounds like it was built from Space Invaders samples. 21 Savage drops in on slow burner “12.38,” shaking hot ash into Glover’s goofy psilocybin yarn by casually dropping lines like “got a girl at Harvard/I talk proper when I call her.” Just as the Technicolor bus is threatening to float off into space, this brings it back to the pavement.

Admittedly, nothing on 3.15.20 grabs the ear quite as handily as “This Is America” or “Redbone.” It’s more of a vibe record, akin to Marvin Gaye’s undersung In Our Lifetime; it rises and blossoms with attentive repeat listening. Luckily, a lot of us have a lot more time on our hands right now, so one is more likely to have the chance to fully absorb it. (www.donaldgloverpresents.com)

Author rating: 8/10

Rate this album
Average reader rating: 6/10



Comments

Submit your comment

Name Required

Email Required, will not be published

URL

Remember my personal information
Notify me of follow-up comments?

Please enter the word you see in the image below:

There are no comments for this entry yet.