You know the first time you hear a song and you know it’s going to stick with you forever? I felt that for the entirety of Childish Gambino’s 2016 critically acclaimed album Awaken, My Love!.
For me, this album gets to the very root of what music should be: experimentation of different sounds, authentic and real instruments, and the ability to be timeless. How many of us have already predicted that two decades into the future we would be blasting this album to let our kids know it was time to clean up just as our parents did to us? There is something special about this album that makes me keep coming back to it.
So why write an article about it?
Awaken, My Love! is nominated for Album of the Year and Best Urban Contemporary Album at the 2018 Grammy’s. It’s top single “Redbone” is nominated for Record of the Year, Best Traditional R&B Performance, and Best R&B Song.
The competition is stiff for Album of the Year and is truly anyone’s game: Kendrick Lamar for DAMN, Jay-Z for 4:44, Bruno Mars for 24k Magic, and Lorde for Melodrama. The same is true for Record of the Year: Bruno Mars for “24k Magic”, Kendrick Lamar for “HUMBLE”, Jay-Z for “The Story of OJ”, and Luis Fonsi, Daddy Yankee, and Justin Beiber for “Despacito”. Amidst these amazing projects, Awaken, My Love! stands out from them all.
Each song is incredibly different from the previous and yet maintain the undercurrent of 1970s funk that our parents and grandparents grew up on. Every track has a diverse grouping of instruments that can all be heard as clearly apart as they can together. The album has a remarkably timeless quality to it; it could have come out in the late 1970s just as easily as it came out in the 2010s.
The tracks that stand out the most to me on this album are “Me and Your Mama”, “Redbone”, and “Terrified”. There are a multitude of instruments on these songs and (to me, at least) are the greatest showing of production on the album. Donald Glover, known in the music world as Childish Gambino, has clearly done his homework, so to speak, on the roots of psychedelic funk and R&B. Produced by Glover and Ludwig Goransson, the album harkens back to the sounds of George Clinton & The Parliament, Jimmy Hendrix, Prince, Earth, Wind, & Fire and a host of other funk, rock, and R&B icons.
Most importantly, this album represents Donald Glover’s ability to be a versatile musical artist. He was previously known for being a rapper with projects such as Camp and Because the Internet, yet this album demonstrates his capability to change his sound and experiment in other genres.
Awaken, My Love! deserves so much more recognition than it has received and, while I enjoyed Jay-Z’s 4:44, Kendrick Lamar’s DAMN, and Bruno Mars’ 24k Magic, a Grammy win for Album of the Year would round out the amazing year Donald Glover has been experiencing in the acting realm of his career.