Donald Glover marked his return to music by doing what he’s done all year long — the unexpected. Music fans expected Glover to go back to his rap roots when picked up his Childish Gambino moniker for the release of his new album, Awaken, My Love! Instead, what he’s given them is yet another layer of his artistic vision as he continues to defy the expectations and make himself a one-man force in multiple sides of entertainment.
The first two singles, “Me and Your Mama” and “Redbone,” were the first clues rap might not be the sole sound of the project. In fact, hindsight shows the cover art itself, slightly inspired by Funkadelic’s Maggot Brain, was another early tip-off as well. All 11 songs feature Gambino singing instead of leaning on witty metaphors and punchlines as he has on previous albums. This is more funk-soul inspired by the likes of Sly Stone, George Clinton and Bootsy Collins, taken from his time growing up.
“I remember listening to songs my dad would play — albums by the Isleys or Funkadelic — and not understanding the feeling I was feeling,” he explained to Billboard before the project’s release. “I remember hearing a Funkadelic scream and being like, ‘Wow, that’s sexual and it’s scary.’ Not having a name for that, though; just having a feeling. That’s what made it great.” Those warm vibes and feelings are what drive Awaken and help make it exceptional.
Glover’s made a career out of taking chances, whether it be leaving 30 Rock to take go out on his own or taking a break from acting as a whole to focus on making music and producing Atlanta, which is structured around many unpredictable twists, too. Awaken, My Love! make it sound like his willingness to take risks have paid dividends once again.
Stream the album in full below, courtesy of Spotify.