Childish Gambino — 3.15.20 — Album Review

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R&B | Neo-Soul | Alternative Hip-Hop

Listen on Spotify | Listen on Apple Music

From the title of this album, it seemed that this one slipped under my radar for a short time, but thanks to the (very mixed) reviews on Donald Glover’s (a.k.a Childish Gambino’s) newest project, 3.15.20, I managed to discover said album just before the month of march comes to a close. And as somebody who enjoyed his previous project, 2016’s Awaken, My Love! considerably, I wanted to carve my own opinion towards this unusual piece.

Considering that this is supposedly an official studio album from Childish Gambino, I didn’t hesitate to give it a listen straight away. I was very excited to find out what type of album would follow up from the greatness of Awaken, My Love!, as well as the very enjoyable collection of singles in 2018.

But unfortunately, what I ended up with, is for the most part, very disappointing.

I’m going to try and steer clear from mocking or resenting Childish Gambino for being as experimental as he could for this newest project. But the sad matter of the fact is that when artists do something “experimental”, it could either go exceptionally well, or horribly wrong. 3.15.20, veers much further towards the latter.

Now I don’t have a tonne of backstory on this album, as indeed I’ve literally only discovered it today. However, 3.15.20 come across to me as an album that was released almost earlier than expected (and perhaps a little too early).

With the exception of two tracks out of 12, all of the songs found on this album are titled accordingly to the time-stamps in which each of them begin. And no this doesnt encourage me to listen to the album in full, it’s just ugly. The title of the album is obviously its release date, and the album cover….well…there simply isn't one.

That’s right, the image (or the lack thereof) isn’t an error of any form, that literally the album cover! Donald Glover can try and justify it all he wants, but in my mind, it is simply such a lazy and uncreative album cover to the point where it offends me. As a visual artist, and somewhat of a Storm Thorgerson Stan, this album cover is devoid of any visual appeal, and perhaps it is why I almost went on without noticing the album altogether.

Simply put, the visual aspect of this albums overall aesthetic is beyond bad, and a borderline mockery that goes against how important these elements truly are in an album.

But enough about the visual side of things; I want to now write about the actual music to be listened to on 3.15.20, and unfortunately this is little better.

The majority of the songs on this album came across to me as flops, for one of two reasons. The first would be that they we simply too much musically. I definitely don’t want this to come across as me disliking songs because they don’t sound like everything else; on the contrary, I normally enjoy a lot of “out there” music. However, the tracks that fall into this category on 3.15.20 go into almost annoying territory, and honestly who would want to listen to an annoying song? The most notable songs that are guilty of this are “32.22”, “35.31”, and “39.28”.

The other reason that most of the tracks on here are unappealing, was that some of them were too overblown or repetitive. There is quite the abundance of tracks on this album that go over a duration of 6 minutes, and a lot of the beats on these tracks are shallow, repetitive and/or uninspired. Even the track “47.48” just feels like a much less interesting version of “Stand Tall”.

The most positive thing I have to say about this album, is indeed the few songs that I enjoyed, as I enjoyed them considerably. These tracks show Donald Glover’s musical creativity done right, and these better tracks almost share a small resemblance to Kanye West’s late 2000’s music.

Despite each being a small collection of musical gems, they are still surrounded by the snake-pit that is the rest of this album’s music. And I should also point out that one of these better tracks is 2018’s “Feels Like Summer”, although you may not have even noticed this if you haven’t listened to the album yet. Stupidly, it now dons the title “42.26”, despite there actually being other tracks with actual titles on this album.

While still being far from the worst album I’ve ever heard, and not even the worst album of this year, I think that this might be one of the messiest album’s I know. In terms of visual appeal, there is none. I wouldn’t buy this album on vinyl, because the visual appeal is so lacking.

I am left slightly confused as to why there are many musical reviews that praise this album as one of the years best, and while I did initially sense uniqueness and importance with this album, it ultimately came off as false, which only hurts the reputation of this album more.

I wish I could’ve left this album satisfied, but it is quite simply far too lacking in both musical and visual appeal for me to possibly do so. The only saving grace that 3.15.20 has are the few brilliant tracks, that still carry the Childish Gambino magic of old.

Favourite Tracks: Algorhythm | 42.26 | 53.49

Least Favourite Tracks: 35.31

mcDJ Recording | RCA Records | Sony Music Entertainment

4/10

My articles mainly revolve around music reviews and analysis. A bit like Anthony Fantano, but just a decade behind.

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