The picture above is a press shot for Childish Gambino’s new album, "Awaken, My Love!", which is either the grooviest thing you’ve heard all year, or as MTV’s Doreen St. Félix put it, “an album with the bones and not the heart of recapitulated funk.”
Glover, looking like a young Billy Dee Williams (whose role as Lando Calrissian he’s reviving in the upcoming Star Wars spin-off, coincidentally), is sat cross-legged on the floor with an intense gaze that suggests he’s either fed up to the point of not caring that he looks like a homeless dude, or he’s plotting revenge on an enemy in the distance with laser-like focus.
Either way, Donald doesn’t look happy. There might be a reason for that.
In a new interview with Australia’s triple j radio—his first since dropping his new album—Donald Glover admitted that, contrary to the album’s vibrant mood, he didn’t particularly enjoy making "Awaken, My Love!"
It’s funny, I think people hear the album and, to be completely honest, it wasn’t a lot of fun. It was actually really hard. I was going through a lot, and I also think in America we’re going through a lot right now, with everything that’s going on.
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Of course, Donald Trump’s presidential victory, the persistent problem of police brutality and the general ugliness of racism in America has made 2016 a pretty depressing year. But it’s also Donald Glover’s MVP season. He created a hit TV show, landed a role in Star Wars and welcomed his first child into the world. "Awaken, My Love!" was the cherry on top. To hear Glover say he didn’t enjoy making it is astonishing.
Was it because he was entering uncharted musical territory that proved more difficult to navigate than he first thought? Was he struggling to cope with the pressure and expectations of pulling off such an ambitious move? Or were there other, more personal issues at hand that many artists, and especially new parents, go through? After all, Donald has spoken about battling depression in the past.
If the process behind "Awaken, My Love!" wasn’t particularly enjoyable, maybe Gambino will find pleasure in the album’s impact. Despite dividing opinion, the project has been reviewed more positively than negatively (it currently boasts an average score of 80 on Metacritic, compared to Because the Internet’s 64) and is set to be the highest charting album of his career. Not many artists can say they made Questlove wake D’Angelo up at 4am to hear their album, either.
Speaking of which, Gambino agrees with The Roots drummer. “Him being like, 'it’s a sucker punch '— I like sucker punches,” he told triple j. “I like things that you’re not expecting. You know, the feeling of expecting water and getting lemonade, your brain kind of flips. We play with pictures and sounds that affect people in ways they don’t realize are happening until the fifth listen.”
Throughout the rest of the interview, Glover also talked about the “excellent chemistry” between him and his long-time producer Ludwig Göransson, the secret “mouth noises” on "Awaken, My Love!", and looking forward to bringing the album to life on stage. At least we know Childish Gambino will enjoy that part.
By Andy James. Follow him on Twitter.
Photo Credit: MEFeater Magazine