“Awaken, My Love!” Album Review


Image courtesy of Complex

Sean Bannon, Contributing Editor

Donald Glover is the definition of a Renaissance man. The thirty-three-year-old NYU graduate has found huge success in several areas of entertainment, including music, writing, acting, and comedy. From creating, writing, and starring in FX’s critically acclaimed Atlanta to being cast as Simba in Jon Favreau’s upcoming remake of The Lion King, Glover has demonstrated a tremendous amount of work ethic and pure talent in his career endeavors. Musically, the new father’s content has shown a clear arc of maturation both in style and theme. Performing under the stage name Childish Gambino, Glover’s early albums primarily showcase his talent as a rapper and wordsmith, though through his more recent experimentation in albums Because the Internet and STN MTN / Kauai, the artist has also been able to feature his prowess as a singer. His latest release, “Awaken, My Love!”, shows a drastic and bold deviation from his previous works, drawing inspiration from the seventies’ funkadelic movement while exploring timeless and contemporary subject matters alike.

The album’s opening song, “Me and Your Mama,” immediately informs the listener of the deeply passionate and occasionally frightening worldview that Glover maintains for the duration of the record. The song reflects on Glover entering a new period in his life, as the title of the song refers to his newly born son. It quickly becomes clear that this album should be listened to as its own work and without regard to any prior impressions of Glover’s discography. In terms of vocals, Glover is transcendent. Never before has his music truly reflected his full vocal capacity, and “Me and Your Mama” perfectly defines the limits of his range and shows how he is able to write beautifully with those limits in mind. As the album progresses, the theme of fatherhood is explored further, and other songs delve into race and relationship issues.

The album’s chart-topping hit “Redbone” urges the listener to “stay woke,” and while this particular track alludes to a romantic relationship, Glover is certainly well aware of  the racial connotations behind the warning. Other tracks such as “Riot” and “Boogieman” more openly discuss the issues of police brutality and racial stereotyping. Glover’s last full-length studio album, Because the Internet, was released in 2013. Racial tensions in society have definitely not subsided since then, with important events such as the Ferguson riots making headlines and shaping culture, so it’s no surprise that race is a prominent focal point on “Awaken, My Love!”. Glover’s ability to couple the theme of modern racial tension with a sound reminiscent of the African-American-led funk and soul movement that revolutionized the 1970’s is especially impressive and makes for a truly unique final product.

With this album, Glover worked with longtime collaborator Ludwig Göransson on music and production. This is definitely Glover’s most complex release in terms of instrumentation, and while the music gives each song a distinct sound, the album still manages to feel consistent and together. The artist’s experimentation with this record clearly demonstrates his versatility, as he underwent a huge stylistic change while maintaining the level of quality he’s shown listeners in the past. That’s a feat for any artist, but Glover almost makes it seem easy.

“Awaken, My Love!” is another massive achievement for Glover and the latest addition to his ever-growing résumé. His hardworking nature, passion, and talent are reflected wonderfully in this album and all show huge promise for the future of the artist’s career.