Review: “Awaken, My Love!” by Childish Gambino

"Awaken, My Love!" by Childish GambinoDonald Glover’s had a hard time focusing all his restless energy into something cohesive, at least with his work as Childish Gambino. You know the kid’s got chops, but his music releases don’t go past the “flashes of brilliance” stage. Awaken, My Love! moves the needle a bit, and while it’s still not as cohesive as one might hope, the gamble Donald takes – leaving out the rap altogether and shifting towards a homage, of sorts, to the funk and R&B of his forefathers – seems to have paid off. While it all seems safe on the surface, the lack of gimmicks and self-references mean his observations – amplifying, or complementing, the ones that form the backbone of his latest TV series, Atlanta – are front and center. We get a record that’s authentic and well-meaning, although some musical decisions feel weird (“California” sticks out like a sore thumb, for example) and, again, at least to me, I get the feeling he could push this further. But maybe Donald doesn’t want it that way. Perhaps his being tentative, his being quiet, his being intense beneath all this, is part of his charm. [NB]4/5

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