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The Plaid

Album Review: ‘Awaken My Love’

A Review of Donald Glover’s 3rd Studio Album.
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Last week, a poll was sent out to WA students to see their favorite music album. After looking at the results, I randomly chose an album to listen to and review. The album chosen for this week was Awaken My Love by Childish Gambino.

Awaken My Love is the third studio album by Childish Gambino, or Donald Glover. The album has three singles: “Redbone”, “Me and Your Mama”, and “Terrified”. It was nominated for Album of the Year at the Grammys, and “Redbone” won the Best Traditional R&B Song award. Awaken My Love is considered a change of sound for Childish Gambino. His previous albums were a part of the “edgy hip-hop/rap” genre of the early 2010s. Awaken My Love has no rap; it uses soul, funk, and R&B influences. Donald Glover has said that this album was made for his son, and I think that’s important to keep in mind when listening to Awaken My Love.

I’ve listened to songs on this album before, but not the full thing. While I’m more familiar with Childish Gambino when he’s rapping, I was excited to see how everything sounds on this album. The album has a very strong opener, with “Me and Your Mama.” It’s my favorite on the album, and for good reason. There are three sections to the song: a smooth and dreamy opening, a middle that has an electric guitar that punches you in the guts, and a slow and sappy ending to help you recover. The production steals the show for this song (and the entire album). The pleading and screaming vocals in the middle of the song are great, but the production really communicates the song’s feelings.

The next two songs of the album, “Have Some Love” and “Boogieman”, broaden the entire album’s message. We go from Gambino pleading and begging for this person to let him into their heart to commentary about relationships and police brutality. “Have Some Love” urges the listeners to uplift each other with a nostalgic and “Mom and Pop” style of production. Childish Gambino uses “Boogieman” as an allegory for police discrimination. With lyrics like “With a gun in your hand, I’m the Boogieman” or “But if he’s scared of me, how can we be free?”. It’s hard to catch because the beat is so funky it serves as a distraction, but it’s beautifully done. I think these are two great songs, but when you look at “Me and Your Mama”, which is so clearly a love song, you’re kind of left wondering where you go from here. There isn’t cohesion. 

Many of these songs are psychedelic and groovy, and you don’t really get the point or their messages until you read between the lines. “Zombies” isn’t any different. It’s a message about how people will leech off your success and use you like zombies eat brains. 

“Riot” is a change from the last three songs. It doesn’t have a deeper meaning or message. It’s just a song that’s true to the title. The vocals are good, but the production makes you feel like you’re in chaos. Exactly how you would feel in the middle of a riot. It puts you in the perspective and mind of a rioter.

The next song on the album is the award-winning “Redbone”. This song is about being careful about who you get yourself involved with because sometimes they aren’t faithful. Again, the lyrics carry a lot of meaning, but what steals the show is the production. The last minute and a half is all instrumental, and it’s great. There’s an electric guitar solo, and then a grand piano starts playing out of nowhere. They are very different instruments, so you wouldn’t think that it would work, but here it does. 

“California” is the next song. The way Gambino sings the lyrics is eccentric and has an island-like style. “California” is all about your false hopes and dreams when trying to achieve stardom. When you think you’re capable, but in reality, you won’t even get out of “Koreatown,” as Gambino sings. I love the eccentric style and production of the song, but I think the song’s theme message turns me away a bit. I think the “failed musician/actress in Hollywood” trope is too overused in the media. And when most of the songs on this album have deep and important messages, “California” definitely is an outlier.

“Terrified” is the final song before the climax of the album. And it’s kind of a letdown. The production is good, but I feel like the song lacks true meaning. There are some bits and pieces, like some lines that continue to talk about the music industry, but there are also some lines that talk about being afraid of falling in love. It’s hard to pick up on the song’s central theme.

The final three songs on the album are where things take a turn. The previous songs seemed like a collection of lessons and themes, and “Baby Boy” tells us why. As I mentioned earlier, Awaken My Love is made for Childish Gambino’s son. “Baby Boy” addresses his son, and Gambino expresses his happiness and excitement for this new chapter in his life. He also mentions how even though his relationship with the child’s mother is falling apart, that will never stop him from loving his son. All of this is beautifully sung over a homage to 90s R&B. “The Night Me and Your Mama Met” is a beautiful follow-up song after “Baby Boy”. It’s all instrumental, and it describes the night he met the mother of his child. Although there are no words, the lush choir and the smooth guitar tell us what we need to know. 

“Stand Tall” is the final song on the album. Again, Childish Gambino addresses his son. This time reminding him always to keep chasing your dreams and to stay positive in times of hardship. It also mirrors “Me and Your Mama’s” three-part structure. The lyrics are simple and easy to understand, and it’s a classic empowerment song. All of the different production styles heard on this album can be found in this song, making it a great ending for an even better album.

Overall, this is a solid album. It stands out from the rest of Gambino’s discography, and for good reason: there’s not a single rap verse here. We all need to hear many life lessons and messages, and there’s something for everyone. Some songs are stronger than others, but the songs work well together. When I first listened to the album, I didn’t see too much cohesion between the songs. But when you look at why the album was made and who it was made for, it comes together beautifully. 

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About the Contributor
Janel Ivy, Writer
Janel Ivy is a senior at Woodlands Academy. She loves talking and writing about current events. Especially pop culture. She enjoys playing and watching sports and competing in Scholastic Bowl tournaments. When she's not writing, you can find Janel outside canteen or sleeping on the IC couches.

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