On March 21, Childish Gambino spontaneously dropped a new album. Unfortunately, the surprise factor did not arise from the fact that the drop had been unprecedented; most Gambino fans already take him to be somewhat of an enigma. The element of surprise resided in the fact that his latest release sucked.
Composed in a futurist vein that sacrifices the soulfulness of Donald Glover’s voice for robotic dullness, “3.15.20” (the dumbest album title to grace the music world in a while) ends up sounding like a failed attempt at making a bad Prince album. Attempts at recreating the tribal rhythms Ludwig Goransson forged so brilliantly for “Black Panther” feel entirely out of place within the framework of an album that’s concerned with emotional entanglement. And yet, cries of despair and emotional oomph also feel out of place due to the discordant sounds Gambino has decided to attach to them. Every song clashes against one another, producing the sounds of an interminable brawl that I wish could be punished for assaulting my ears.
Perhaps Gambino is just too avant-garde and the album too forward-thinking for this day and age? Or perhaps this latest work is a travesty of sounds, an album so conceited by its ability to achieve celebrity-status during a time of crisis that it doesn’t care if it sounds good, bad or simply okay as long as it’s out there for the masses to access.
Childish Gambino has always been known for his tenacity when it comes to experimenting with projects. The sound of “Camp” is wholly different from that of “Because the Internet,” and that of “Awaken, My Love!” Hence, it would make sense for “3.15.20” to be dashed with the same amount of unruly experimentation that’s made every Childish Gambino record so delightfully unique up until now. The fact that it sounds so different from anything he’s ever released before could be described as experimental. But the reality is, the depth of his soulfulness was already explored in “Awaken, My Love!,” the imprint of a cybernetically composed futurist sound was already in “Because the Internet” and his ability to balance comedy alongside tragedy within his lyrics had already been tested time and time again throughout this repertoire. In short, “3.15.20” doesn’t offer anything new or worthwhile.
It saddens me to report one of the most versatile minds working in entertainment today has offered one of the most indigestible albums during a time when people are craving for something to listen to. Disregarding “12.38” and “47.48” (how will anyone remember the names of any of these tracks?), “3.15.20” is entirely forgettable despite its attempt to capture your attention. Full of trite compositions, mediocre lyrics and indecipherably arranged messages, “3.15.20” represents an ultimate failure in the catalog of someone I considered the greatest artist working today.
Email Nicolas Pedrero-Setzer at [email protected]