The Boundless Colored Canopy: Childish Gambino’s “3.15.20”

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Hope all is well for everyone shut inside during this quarantine. For those music lovers among us, take a break from Netflix and Chill to check out Donald Glover a.ka. Childish Gambino’s new album entitled 3.15.20.

Childish posted the album (featuring musical appearances from Ariana Grande, 21 Savage and SZA) last Sunday on DonaldGloverPresents.com. Fans could only stream it from the site that day, but today it was made available for purchase across the usual platforms.

3.15.20 is an incredible album that is hard to describe without using poetic language.

The echoing intro “0.00” is an auto-tuned blast off into the void. “12.38” is a bedtime story and slow-ride wrapped into a smooth bop. The refraining “To be beautiful is to be…hunted” in “19.10” bounces your body and vibrates your soul (may be importing, but I think there’s a metaphor about exploiting blackness in there as well). You’ll think of your “sweet thang” listening to “24.19.” The ravy “32.22” is a much needed loss of control. “35.31” makes you feel like you’re on a hay-ride, but “39.28” asks for critical self-reflection. “42.26” is Gambino’s “Feel Like Summer” (highlighted beautifully in his film Guava Island, co-starring Rihanna). “47.48” is groovy walk towards the light at the end of tunnel.

(screenshot from note currently on DonaldGloverPresents.com)

There’s so many metaphors packed into 3.15.20 and its release — the unartistic title, the blank album cover, the song titles being time-stamps for when they appear. I’d surmise the message is that the aesthetics don’t matter, just the music. Forget the style, enjoy the substance. Look past the facade of what we show the world versus what is inside; see the chaos in what we call order. Look pass the Matrix, see the code.

Aside from his music prowess, I think people enjoy Gambino’s music so much because its layers. While the songs definitely get you jamming, Childish wants you to go deeper than the musical surface.

“Algorhythm” is funky robotic revamp of Zhane’s “Hey Mr. D.J.” It made me think of how ironic our love for music is. How is it that maybe our most spiritual experience comes from something so mechanical (metronomes, scales, notes)? With the right math, the right beat, the right frequency, music can turn us into a machine. We follow its command to Love! Cry! Dance! DANCE! My favorite track on the album is “Time.”

It’s an uplifting, musically, yet sad when you digest the lyrics “Maybe all the stars in the night are really dreams / Maybe this whole world ain’t exactly what it seems / Maybe this world maybe the sky will fall down on tomorrow / but one thing’s for certain baby, we’re running out of time.” It taps into the angst a lot of us are feeling, searching for hope in the midst of both our personal struggles like finding our calling in the midst of careers and larger issues of like COVID-19 and climate change. “Time” is euphoric but it doesn’t let you purge the pain completely. It takes you to outer-space and freezes you in place at the same time. I imagined it being performed in a stadium and it gives me chills.

3.15.20 is a rainbow blasting through the dark cosmos — the songs manage to be joyful and cathartic and yet melancholic and morose, but always beautiful. 3.15.20 is a boundless colored canopy of eternity. I hope you enjoy it as much as I did.

Joshua Adams is a writer and journalist from Chicago. UVA & USC. Taught media and communication at DePaul & Salem State. Twitter: @journojoshua

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