Opinion: Swing-and-Miss: Childish Gambino’s 3.15.20


Free Use Image Courtesy of Wikimedia Commons

Last Sunday, a mysterious 58 minute tape dropped on Donald Glover’s website, donaldgloverpresents.com. Fans of Glover and his musical alter-ego Childish Gambino immediately labeled the audio as Gambino’s long-awaited new album. The reclusive Gambino, whose releases Because the Internet (2013), Kauai (2014), and Awaken, My Love! (2016) all received critical acclaim, is one of the most followed faces in the rap industry at the moment. His grammy-winning 2018 single “This is America” is considered one of the most significant moments in recent popular culture. On Sunday, March 22nd, Gambino’s fourth major-label project was released as 3.15.20. . 

Gambino’s sonic style is impossible to pin down, and this album is no different. Whereas his past projects have been categorized as rap, pop, R&B, and soul, 3.15.20 defies genre: it can be best described as experimental hip-hop and R&B, or alternatively a rambling sort of musical dadaism. This sound, though, is not polished and vivacious like Gambino’s previous albums: instead, it is empty and seemingly unfocused. Almost every song drones on longer than necessary, and most lyrics are too ambiguous to be meaningful, like on “19.10, when Gambino croons “the beautiful is to be hunted” without any explanation.

Although Glover tells his listeners 3.15.20 is a “single-track opus” released as an album for listening convenience, it falls far short of the cohesion accomplished on Because the Internet and Awaken, my Love! Where Because the Internet followed social interaction in the digital age and Awaken, my Love! explored race relations in America, 3.15.20 never comes close to developing a central theme: nostalgia, love, and monotony are all touched upon, but never for long enough to develop a thesis.

Additionally, 3.15.20’s individual songs lack character as well. “Algorythym,” the album’s second track, is a spacious 3:32 track that simply asserts “modern music is bad” without offering any constructive commentary. “42.26,” known alternatively as “Feels Like Summer,” aims to drum up childhood nostalgia, but is so vague that it fails to tell Glover’s story or anyone else’s. At best, 3.15.20 is an experiment with mixed results; at worst, it is nothing but lifeless art for art’s sake.