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The Great Gambino Returns

Devon Campbell

Childish Gambino is a figure that needs little introduction. With credits ranging from acting and directing to music, the Renaissance man seems to dip his feet into any medium he feels like. His latest project, “3.15.20,” was premiered in pieces, little by little on the “This Is America” tour, which had countermeasures in place to make sure nobody leaked the songs. Nobody had any idea when these songs would drop. Then, on March 3, the album was streamed in its entirety on his website on a continuous loop for 24 hours, then disappeared from the internet once again. Which brings us to March 22, when the album finally resurfaced fully on all streaming services, accessible and up for everyone to listen to. 


As far as the positives the album brandishes a lot of cool, experimental grooves. Most of “3.15.20” is very ‘80s synthwave inspired, sporting warm synths and nostalgic electronic drum basslines. It almost makes you long for a time you weren’t even alive for. Any features on the album are unlisted so when artists like Ariana Grande or 21 Savage appear out of the woodwork, it’s a pleasant surprise. Gambino seems to take the soul and funkadelic influences of his previous album and blend them with the electronic influences that make up a lot of modern music, making a blend that’s as unexpected as it is fresh. 


The album is experimental in a lot of ways but it tends to not know how to end songs. A lot of the songs wrap up with a weird non-sequitur that taints the atmosphere of an otherwise really good song. For the first two-thirds of the album or so, a song will end and you’ll probably feel uncomfortable, asking yourself “why did he end it like that?” The song “32.22” ends with random farm animal sounds, none of which do anything to serve or enhance the narrative of the song. I will give him credit, the end of “47.48” has a cute conversation with his son, Legend Glover, about self-love. Towards the last third of the album, the endings get more concrete and consistent, and the record departs from the ‘80s style it establishes earlier, going full funk. The downside is that having one foot in either genre, the entire album doesn’t feel as consistent or together as it should. 

The album is a good jumping-off point into more experimental themes. It feels like Childish Gambino’s “Yeezus” moment, in that the album is such a bait-and-switch from what you’re expecting that it might take some time to grow on us. If you like music like Daft Punk or Kavinsky, you’ll probably appreciate the first half of the album, however, if you like music closer to Gambino’s previous album, the latter half should sit well with you. Overall it’s a solid project, but its split nature keeps it from shining in places where it could really “wow” the audience.

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