It took a few days of me intermittently listening to Childish Gambino's new project, 3.15.20, for me to get stuck into it. The date in the title refers to when the album was released on the multi-talented artist's website and then, seemingly as quickly as it appeared, it disappeared.
It was then re-released on Monday, 23 March. There's no word as to why it was uploaded, removed and then reuploaded but it all just adds to the mystique of Donald Glover's musical alter ego, Childish Gambino.
He started off making tracks that wouldn't go amiss at a keg party and then with the release of Redbone and the iconic This is America, he took a step in a new and bold artistic direction. That deeper vein of consciousness, demonstrated in those records, is at the height of its powers in this latest offering. It's jarring and singular in its approach, but still accessible with familiar vocals from Ariana Grande and interspersed synths and drums.
I would liken it to swimming in the ocean for the first time – it can be overwhelming but at the same time thrilling. Listening to it, I felt swept away into a world that is deeper than I know, the same way when I feel a current pull me towards the expanse.
The song with Ariana is titled Time and I find it to be one of my favourite cuts on the album.
LISTEN TO IT HERE:
Time and almost every song on the album flow easily into each other in a way that is reminiscent of a long live performance art set up being played on a long loop. That's what 3.15.20 is to me. It's not a highly contrived effort from a pop star to try and crack the charts with an album of three hot singles in between a whole bunch of fillers. It is one cohesive art piece that you should listen to from start to finish, with no shuffle, to get the full experience.
The way it's mixed and produced also reminds me of the era when disco was at its height. It has dark undertones, mixed with very rhythmic beats that will have you bobbing your head along before you know what sad heartbreak lies in the lyrics. I also love how Donald speaks throughout the record and incorporates different references and sounds, even name checking Tracee Ellis Ross and Trader Joe's on 12.38.
These references make the music firmly a reflection of modern pop culture, though the influences that range from Janet Jackson to Prince are so clear that it feels like a well worn pair of dance shoes.
With 3.15.20 Donald Glover is, without much fanfare or self-interest, giving listeners a taste of who he is. He's an incredible musician, lyricist and innovator who respects those who have come before him. He's the guy who should be headlining festivals as soon as we can go to festivals again. He is taking pop in a new direction, away from the vapid and back into the meaningful. That's why I have really connected with this album, even though I admit, I wasn't sure about it on first listen. I discovered, as many might have, that you have to pay full attention to it to see what it's doing.
That's what I would recommend to everyone. Switch off your phone, close all of your distractions and let yourself listen to this album on a loop twice. Let yourself get lost in it and forget that you can't go anywhere for the time being.