Album Spotlight: Childish Gambino - "3.15.20"

>>Childish Gambino is back with a fourth album and after the critically acclaimed Awaken my Love, there were plenty of people wondering if it could be as great. After years and three straight albums with Glassnote Records, The Gambino switching to the much larger and more powerful RCA, a Sony company, could have spelled pop star disaster. But Donald kept up with his earlier themes, while certainly having a new sheen to the music that wasn’t entirely there before, but never is fully immersed in pop start status in this record.

The fourth, aptly named 3.15.20 was actually released a week previous on Donald’s website giving fans a full preview for about 12 hours before it was taken down. The album had two songs that were singles and released previously, Algorhythm and Time, the rest of the tracks don’t have names but are rather called by their time stamp. The album is heavy with P Funk and 80’s rhythm and blues with a radio and pop friendly clear gloss.

This could easily be a concept album, the way the tracks are mostly labeled by their time code instead of being named makes most of the songs difficult to remember, except of course for the two that came out previously, and seems like those two were guided into having actually names by the folks at RCA. But if the album was meant as concept, it’s a bit unclear what the concept is.

The merely three-minute intro track leads to Algorithm, Gambino effortlessly toggling between singing and rapping. His singing voice is nice, with a pleasant tone and slight vibrato. There’s quite a bit of post-production on this track, and at times it’s almost muddy, but it fits well together and sounds modern, even if the beats themselves aren’t exactly the Trap style we’ve all grown so accustomed to in almost every modern rap song.

Gambino sounds at times like early Lenny Kravitz and then at others has a George Michael vibe, especially in Time, which could have easily come out in the late 80’s or early 90’s, sans the autotune voice. But man is it catchy, and there’s practically no way to keep from bobbing your head, as much for the infectious beat as for approval.

Childish Gambino has definitely done it again. This album is a mature, with a deep resonance and layers of talented musicians. It’s orchestral at times without sounding overdone. You can hear his musical influences at almost every turn. There’s a lot of Prince on this album, a fitting and futuristic sound for both his voice and his rap. It’s meditative and discusses violence, self-love, and finding your way. A touching moment toward the end of the album has Glover asking a little one what they love and the question that echoes is “Do you love yourself”?

What a time in history for Glover to have this album released. Spend some time with album, deep dive into it one of these days with a good set of headphones. Maybe it’s his status as a good actor, but he sounds like who he wants to in this album. There's moments of Kendrick, Prince, P Funk, George Michael, Donald Glover, Childish Gambino, Al Green, Lenny Kravitz and more. All in all, 3.15.20 is worth the listen and may even find a spot in heavy rotation, for now.