Review: Donald Glover’s “3.15.20” is Worth the Wait

The multi-talented rapper and R&B singer releases his final studio album

Donald+Glover+a.k.a.+Childish+Gambino+performs+at+the+Governor%27s+Ball+in+2018.

Donald Glover a.k.a. Childish Gambino performs at the Governor's Ball in 2018.

Graham Kanwit, Website Editor

Four years. That’s how long it’s been since the last Donald Glover album. That’s how long it’s been since the rapper, producer, musician, DJ and actor released his previous album “Awaken, My Love!” under his musical moniker of Childish Gambino. In 2016, “Awaken, My Love!” threw me for a curve; it severely displaced the image of Gambino I had in my head. The previous iteration of Childish Gambino rapped; he was corny, clever and oddly endearing. But the new, mature Gambino (pun intended) on “Awaken, My Love!” sounded like Prince reincarnated.

It was with the artist’s final release that I realized Childish Gambino no longer exists. While this was billed as the final Gambino album, it truly only is in name; “Awaken, My Love!” and “3.15.20” aren’t albums made by an alter ego, but by Glover himself. Donald Glover has been ready to say goodbye to the musical project of Childish Gambino for years; we just didn’t know it.

In any event, “3.15.20” is an album as mysterious as its rollout. It originally released on March 15 as an untitled project on the website donaldgloverpresents.com as an infinitely looped stream. It was then removed and re-released this Sunday, both as an album on streaming services and a continuous video on the Donald Glover Presents website.

The streaming services iteration of the album, titled “3.15.20,” has no album cover. Its songs, with the exception of two, are simply titled by the timestamps of where they appear in the album’s runtime. If one looks at the website version, the reasoning behind this is obvious; “3.15.20” is meant to be viewed as one gigantic song.

Still, the project has its individual highlights. The standout track “Algorhythm,” a live staple in Gambino’s repertoire for years, sounds like a perfectly nightmarish rave, an immaculate soundtrack for one of the most tumultuous times in American history. The sweetly infectious “Time” is gently layered with synths and a perfectly placed feature from Ariana Grande. “19.10,” one of my personal favorites, is a funky, grimy dance number that would fit on the B sides of a Prince or Michael Jackson album.

There are several issues that keep “3.15.20” from topping Glover’s magnum opus “Because the Internet.” For one thing, the tracks tend to outlast their welcome, ranging from six to eight minutes. Additionally, Glover’s vocal experimentation occasionally doesn’t land. There are times in the project when Glover’s use of audio manipulation and autotune overshadow the artist himself, esepcially considering his already impressive vocals. However, these flaws only truly degrade one song; the overly ambitious “24.19,” which runs at eight minutes, may not be worth the listen. Apart from this single dud, however, the collection of songs on “3.15.20” easily lands the project near the top of Glover’s discography.

Curiously, a single Gambino released two years ago, “Feels Like Summer,” makes an appearance on the back end of the album under the title “42.26.” At first, one might wonder why this track has resurfaced; however, the song is a perfect thematic fit with the rest of “3.15.20,” containing the lyrics: “I’m hopin’ that this world will change/But it just feels the same.” Two years later, the issues of climate change and overpopulation Gambino sang about on “Feels Like Summer” still plague the Earth. Nothing really has changed. It’s a cyclical theme that develops itself even more strongly in “47.48,” a gem towards the end of the album which deals with inner-generational violence and the need for love. As Glover asks his son “Who do you love?” in an extended outro, one gets the sense that Glover has truly found his purpose as a family man.

When the credits roll after the closer “53.49,” fans are left to ponder the final refrain: “Do what you wanna do.” Does any sentiment better reflect Glover’s career as a “Renaissance Man”? Now that Glover has ended the final chapter of his music career, will he return to movies such as “Star Wars” and “The Lion King,” shows such as “Community,” comedy specials such as “Weirdo,” or move on to something else entirely? It’s hard to know, but whatever Glover chooses is likely something he’ll be great at.

Highlights: “Algorhythm,” “Time,” “19.10,” “47.48”

Skips: “24.19”

Rating: 9/10

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