Childish Gambino mysteriously released an “album” early on Sunday, March 15, via DonaldGloverPresents.com. The project consisted of 12 tracks, including features from Ariana Grande and 21 Savage, with production from DJ Dahi, Ludwig Göransson, and others. One week later, on March 22, Gambino’s album “3.15.20” appeared on digital streaming platforms.
This is Gambino’s first release since his two-song “Summer Pack” on July 11, 2018. Prior to that, Gambino released arguably the biggest song of his career with “This Is America.” The song debuted on “Saturday Night Live” on May 5, 2018 and it seemed like a new Gambino album would be out soon. And nearly two years later, he returns with one of his most inspiring projects yet.
“3.15.20” consists of 12 songs, 10 of which are simply named by the timestamp that they occur on the album. The first song, “0.00” is also known as We Are. It’s a simple welcome to the album that stretches a little too long in my opinion. But right after that, the song “Algorhythm” comes on and brings a ton of energy with it.
Gambino continues discussing the world around him on the following song, “Time,“ which features pop sensation Ariana Grande. The two go back and forth about feeling uncertain with our surroundings and running out of time, but the song is wrapped with radio-friendly pop patterns, and it somehow comes out perfectly.
Gambino gets some help from Khadja Bonet, Ink, and 21 Savage on “12.38" (or Vibrate) as themes of materialism, police brutality, sex, and more are explored. Both Glover and 21 Savage provide rap verses as the latter explains: “The police keep harassing cause I’m rich and I’m black, they mad because I made myself a boss without crack, I ain’t tripping boy, I’m Lamborghini whipping.”
The following song is titled “19.10” (To Be Beautiful) and the beat is extremely bouncy and reminds me of songs like Feels Like Summer and Summertime Magic, but the chorus is even more catchy. It’s a track that sounds positive and upbeat but the lyrics are a warning that there could be danger around the corner: “To be beautiful is to be hunted, I can’t change the truth, I can’t get you used to this.”
The seventh song, “32.22,“ (Warlords”) starts with a man running (and panting) with a simple drum pattern in the background. To me, it sounds like the continuation of “This Is America” as a new chapter of the story. It’s an update on his current state as he continues to try and escape the chaos we all live in. It definitely gives me Yeezus vibes as Gambino screams and utters phrases in the background.
“35.31” (Little Foot, Big Foot) is a song unlike anything we’ve heard from him before. Even though there’s a country-tone to the instrumental, Gambino discusses dealing with topics like drugs, guns, and sex at a young age: “Quarter brick half a brick whole brick aye, got my white like hay hoes flows, could’ve been broke, this the life I chose.” Gambino continues to show his versatility on songs like this.
“42.26” is the previously released "Feels Like Summer,“ which came out as a single on July 11, 2018. This has been one of my favorite Gambino songs since it dropped almost two years ago. He finds a way to touch on climate change, water crisis, and world population while creating a pop song about summertime. It fits in really well with tracks like "Time" and “19.10.”
In the second verse, Gambino sings: “Everyday gets hotter than the one before, running out of water it’s about to go down (go down). Air that kill the bees that we depend upon, birds were made for singing, waking up to no sound (no sound).” He later adds “I really thought this world would change, but it seems like the same.”
“47.48” (Don’t Worry About Tomorrow) is the turning point in the album, in my opinion, as Gambino takes all of the lessons he’s learned throughout life, and he attempts to pass them along to his son Legend. The entire song is about danger in the modern age, but the song concludes with Gambino and Legend discussing love.
I think this song represents the idea that we, as humans, can get through difficult times if we can manage to show compassion towards others. In the world we live in right now, with the coronavirus pandemic at the forefront, this seems to be as relevant as ever. Gambino proclaims “Just take care of your soul, let the beauty unfold, you’ll get through it.”
“53.49” (Under The Sun) is the final track on the album and is personally my favorite song. It’s a soulful and energetic song that continues the transition from chaos to peace. The chorus is already one of my favorites from him as he sings “There is love in every morning, under the sun girl I did what I wanted. There is love in every morning, under the sun girl you do what you wanna do.”
It’s a perfect ending to a really great album. If “This Is America” is the beginning of the end for the Gambino-era of Glover’s life, then “3.15.20” and the final song “53.49” act as the start of his goodbye to us. I’m not sure if this is the end of Childish Gambino or if he has more in store for us, but it’s good to see him releasing music again.
In the end, it’s a project that is hard to describe, similar to Gambino’s most recent full length album, “Awaken, My Love!,” especially since there is so much uncertainty with the new album given the early-release, the song titles being timestamps, and the cover art being completely white.
There are so many layers to the 12 songs as he discusses topics including the climate, drug use, everyday danger, growth, love, materialism, sex, and more. It’s another beautiful and thought-provoking album from one of the most creative men in the world.