A couple of months ago, a listening party/live show was held to debut Awaken, My Love! to fans at Joshua Tree National Park in California. No social media and the discouragement of phone use in general meant that every detail about the event was kept hush hush aside from a few pictures that were released the next day. The elaborate costumes worn by Childish Gambino and the odd location of the listening party seem to make a lot more sense after actually listening to the album. There is something very cinematic about each varying track.
Having an illustrious comedy career kicking off at the same time as his music career was starting to take shape must have been challenging to navigate. However after some time, he may have found his niche while somehow managing to work on his own FX series, Atlanta, while creating this album. There are some themes that run parallel between the two; race, relationships, and fame to name a few. The abstract nature of the show also makes it the best natural accompaniment for the album, whether this was intended or not.
This album will always be viewed as a turning point of Donald Glover’s musical career. Where it will go from here, we don’t know but a lot more doors will open for him because of it. For his original fan base, Awaken, My Love! is polarizing. Many are happy to see him take a new direction and are willing to get on board with whatever drastic changes that will bring. What some had originally fallen for was his witty and original lyrics and with none of that in sight, some fans felt ostracised.
This album requires an open mind when listening as a variety of different funk, soul, rock, psychedelic and newer sounds are implemented. Perhaps this is why some people who were unfamiliar before were so willing to fall to Awaken, My Love! To the untrained eye, this is not a rapper stepping into a new world, but an entirely new artist who is incomparable at the moment. Once you get over the lack of rhymes, which I’m sure some people never will, there is a massively engrossing project waiting to be heard.
The album is an eclectic one, but no track sounds out of place. There was a clear vision that was fulfilled, leaving 12 songs that convey Donald Glover’s songwriting at its finest. He has recently talked out being inspired by music from the 60s and 70s as it was a signifier of the social revolution that was happening at the time. Whether you feel he achieved this or not, he has definitely revolutionized his career and what it means to be labeled ‘just’ a rapper.