3.15.20 shows Childish Gambino’s growth

3.15.20+is+Glover%27s+first+full-length+project+since+the+release+of+Awaken%2C+My+Love%21+in+2016.

Eli Watson

3.15.20 is Glover's first full-length project since the release of Awaken, My Love! in 2016.

Melissa May, Arts Writer

On Sunday, March 22, Donald Glover, otherwise known as Childish Gambino, released his highly anticipated fourth studio album entitled 3.15.20. The album contained twelve songs and each one featured a name denoted by the time stamp in which they begin, except for two: Algorhythm and Time. The works feature Ariana Grande, 21 Savage, and Khadja Bonet, but are all primarily centered around Glover’s exploration of his sound and discovery of where he aims to take his music career from here.

With the release of his previous album, “Awaken, My Love!”,  in 2016 and only three singles having been released since then, the anticipation for his album has been building steadily. His hit single This Is America instantly charted at number one after its release in 2018 and his fanbase has grown a lot over time, as displayed through his many awards and his headlining performance at Coachella in 2019. Glover’s fans have been awaiting another album from the artist for nearly four years, so when he began teasing the upcoming work, the news quickly spread through the internet.

On Sunday, March 15, Glover briefly streamed the album on his website “Donald Glover Presents.” Though it was released for only around ten hours before it disappeared for the next week, the short teaser for fans was enough to keep up the immense amount of anticipation for the album. When it was officially released on Sunday, fans were quick to download it on music streaming services and listen to it over and over. 

I was with the many to download the album on Sunday, initially listening to it and just appreciating how good each song was. Beyond just the unique sound that Glover has developed as Childish Gambino, 3.15.20 followed in the footsteps of his single This Is America, in that it tackled the different issues that are prevalent everywhere in the world today. Glover mentions topics like the interconnection and reliance of humans and technology, racism, and climate change through his music, which helps to elevate the meaning and quality of the songs. 

The specific standout songs in my opinion consist of Algorhythm, Time, 24.19, 42.26, and 53.49. Each song quickly climbed to the top tier of the album for me due to their interesting sounds and how they stand out compared to the other tracks. 42.26 had already been released as Glover’s single Feels Like Summer, but hearing it in the album reinforced it as one of my favorite songs from his discography. Despite already having my favorites on the album, it is easy to appreciate and enjoy each of the twelve songs in their own way.

The album opened with the song 0.0, which featured a simple sampling of Glover’s modified voice singing “we are, we are, we are” on repeat. If the song had been any other besides the album’s opener, I would have been disappointed, but I feel that it provides a fitting and interesting beginning to the project. It entices the listener to continue on through the tracks, and it works well as the album’s opening track.

The next song, Algorhythm, is rather the opposite of 0.0. From the start, it contains hard-hitting beats and interesting deep, altered vocals. It progresses into Glover’s normal voice for the brief chorus and then returns to the deeper, almost mechanical voice. It alternates between the two a few more times throughout the track and ends with the progressive slowing of the beats and the transition into the following song, Time. As the album’s first official song, I found it unique how Glover did not choose to feature much of his normal voice and sound, but, I thought it coordinated perfectly with its message of the silent rhythms that keep humans moving through life.

As Algorhythm bleeds into the third song on the album, there is an immediate, huge shift from the strong beats in Algorhythm to the much more relaxed sounding Time. The track features vocals from Ariana Grande and serves as an easy-going song to bridge the gap between Algorhythm and 12.38, two songs with harder beats. Time is a more soulful song, and could only be described as an easy listen. The stunning vocals paired with the mild tempos on the track combine perfectly to create one of the best songs Glover put out on the album.

12.38 follows Time and is very reminiscent of a Prince sound. Though the song is still slightly more hard-hitting than Time, it is one of the more relaxed beats on the album as Glover recounts the story of a time he encountered some psychedelics. He features 21 Savage later on the track, and their combined verses make for one of the calmer, yet unique pieces on the album. The next song, 19.10, transitions the album from those relaxed beats with a quick-paced, futuristic sound. Glover flaunts his songwriting abilities and sings about how everything in the world is give-and-take. It has one of the most unique concepts from the album and Glover’s storytelling helps make it such a great track.

Lars Plougmann
The album is a breakthrough moment for Glover and it features some new sounds that he had not yet explored.

24.19 is the sixth song on the album and its almost eight-minute span allows Glover the time to find his sound on the track and develop it fully. It is a soulful yet slow funk song about an anonymous lover. His vocals remind me of an altered version of the hit song from his last album, Redbone, and it claimed its spot as my favorite song on the album due to its beautiful melodies, sweet lyrics, and calm R&B sound.

The following song, entitled 32.22, is one that falls short in my opinion. It opens with a repetitive psychedelic beat for about the first forty-five seconds of the song before developing into a hard-hitting tempo and altered vocals. It is a chaotic song that has no substantial contribution to the album. It is not necessarily bad, but when compared to the other masterpieces that Glover released, it just seems like it should not have been included.

35.31 is an alluring companion to 42.26 and I feel that they have similar sounds. They both focus on more pop-based, upbeat sounds and, though they are not in succession with one another, they are quite similar in their melodies. 35.31 falls slightly short when compared to 42.26 though because I feel that through 42.26’s less repetitive, more interesting lyrics and beats, it is easier to listen to and enjoy throughout.

Between the two songs is 39.28, a vocally modified love song that features a near lack of background music. It has piano backing Glover’s transformed voice, but the main focus of the track is the lyricism that Glover proves time and time again that he has practically mastered. It is one of the shorter and least complicated songs throughout 3.15.20, so there is not much content to critique, but it is a pleasant, simple piece.

The eleventh and second-to-last song is called 47.48. It is one of the more soothing tracks on the album, with a relatively consistent, calmer beat throughout. It serves as a moment of levity as Glover reassures through his lyrics that one should not “worry about tomorrow.” It ends with a conversation between Glover and his son as they both declare that they love themselves and how important it is to do so. It is a fantastic song with futuristic beats and an overall amazing sound.

The final song, entitled 53.49, combines all of Glover’s best musical qualities to complete the album on a high note. He switches multiple times throughout the song between a very deep, strong voice and sound to a more soulful, vocally-based melody. He shows off his unique abilities in not only hip-hop but also R&B and funk. It feels like the perfect way to end the project and I think it is by far one of the strongest songs on the album.

3.15.20 is all-in-all an incredible album with next to no improvements that could be made. Glover’s sound is not made for everyone, but for listeners looking for a unique, funk-based, soulful yet still hip-hop based album, I would recommend it time and time again. I have listened to Glover for a long time and, as excited as I was for his new work, he managed to create a project that exceeded all of my hopes.

No album is completely perfect, and 3.15.20 is no exception, but the incredible execution and production of the songs delivers in almost every way imaginable. I think Glover’s hard work on this album comes across as clear as day, and I commend him for creating one of my favorite albums of 2020 by far. So, to anyone bored in quarantine, anyone who wants to find new music, or anyone who just wants to listen to a well-done album, I would recommend 3.15.20, and it is available on all music streaming platforms now.