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3.15.20 by Childish Gambino | Album Review

Reviewing Childish Gambino's (likely) last work

By Josh HerringPublished 2 years ago 5 min read
Top Story - March 2022
3.15.20 album cover

While the cover and song titles may be minimalist, the production of 3.15.20 was not. It seems fitting that what may be the last ode for the moniker Childish Gambino, was likely his best and most addicting work, while being the least recognizable. The album cover, simply a white square (a predecessor to Kanye's Donda cover) and the timestamp song titles (besides two) really made this album almost inaccessible to some as it's almost impossible to point out a song off the top of your head unless you're intimately familiar with it. Only the second and third song of the album are devoid of this fate. However, under its forgettable shell is a masterpiece, laden with funky electronic eclecticism and soulful renditions of existentialism and other social commentaries.

The opening track, "0.00", consists only the repetition of two words - "we are". The tracks echoes the two words for three minutes seemingly a declaration. Gambino's music often being grounded in the beauty and fragility of human kind, it makes sense for him to recognize that we simply are, we exist, as simple yet miraculous as that may be.

"Algorhythm" follows and is one of the two songs with a title. This song follows up on the almost robotic sense of electronic production in the sensational ups and downs of banging drums of the beat and a filtered voice, pitched down to evoke that same robotic sense. This is juxtaposed with the higher pitched, groovy chorus, an ode to 90's hit "Hey, Mr. D.J." The song preaches on the algorithmic way we attend to life, machines inputting streams of data for just a hint of dopamine. Gambino reflects on how this ultimately raises the question of the inherent consequences of succumbing to this algorithmic way of life:

"Pressure is to evolve, take a bite of the apple

We crush it into the sauce, how do we know the cost?

How do we know the truth without feeling what could be false?

Freedom of being wrong, freedom of being lost"

The only other song with a title, "Time", features Ariana Grande and speaks on the existentialism through the high pop vocals worried about the frenzied speed of time that eventually comes to a stop at the hands of the humans living on an over capacity earth. Continually, they preach that we're "running out of time", and it's hard to say that they are wrong. Regardless, this song signals a transition in the album. From here, titles and messages become ambiguous.

The most entertaining song by far is the following song, "12.38", which details, in a storytelling manner, a fling with a woman while under the influence of psychedelics. Consider this track comedic relief as Gambino takes dark chocolate edibles and turns the radio on for a cat before seeking a relationship that ultimately doesn't go as far as he'd like. As he puts it, she says, "You don't understand what this is (Oh wait, wait, wait, wait) / I ain't lookin' for another lifetime / Let's just stay here and enjoy the great design". Despair. This is countered with 21 Savage's verse, who some say turns a 10/10 song into an 11/10 song. As far as enjoyability goes, this song is primo.

From here, I'll only be highlighting a few songs because this album is best experienced without prior thorough knowledge - knowing what to expect ruins that. I would suggest listening to this album before reading any further.

Following the humorous anecdote of "12.38", the end transitions beautifully into "19.10" after a fever pitch and cacophony of mixed sounds including chopped vocals and a siren. The latter open with (the ever-improving) vocals of Gambino and into one of the most well-produced songs on the album. It's light, airy, houses some of the most beautiful lyrics ("to be beautiful is to be hunted"), and encouraging. This is easily one of my favorite songs on the album.

A lot of the remaining work contains experimental booms, baps, and tribal grunts, drums, and wailings that can only be explained as a sensation to tie together experiences. This is what I like to call "noise music", beautiful in its own right as it is still extremely experimental, but can throw some listeners off. Gambino is a master of using noises and backtracks to evoke certain emotions. The first few words that comes to mind to describe 3.15.20 sounds are primal urgency. At the end of "19.10", you can hear a growling sort of noise, followed by the heavy breathing of Gambino at the end of "24.19", the pounding drums accompanied with tribal-like, whooping music and the chittering of Amazonian-like animals in "32.22" (that also reappear briefly in "42.26"). Notice how this juxtaposes the robotic nature of the first few songs of the album.

Perhaps the most popular song of 3.15.20, "Feels Like Summer", renamed "42.26" for the album, reiterates the themes of "Time". Things are moving fast, probably too fast, and as humans we can't catch up but at the same time can't slow down. A cool and swaying song, littered with influences of patois. This popular rendition even made its way into the FIFA series of video games. The video itself is satirical and shows parodies of the music games biggest stars and their perceived stereotypes. For example, younger stars like Trippie Red are depicted as toddlers. The cartoonish scenes and humorous depiction of other artist are countered by an uninterested, solitary Gambino taking a stroll down the street. Ultimately, the song serves as a climate change commentary, hence the title, but the added visual is a hilarious plus.

The album end with its magnum opus with "53.49". Gambino comes flying out the gate with hard style of rapping, very visceral in its delivery, then immediately countered by the soft, ethereal chorus. The most impressive aspect is the vocal extremes Gambino somehow reaches, showcasing that improved vocal range at the end of the second verse. As he tends to do, the artist leaves his most emotionally-telling and important song for last. He leaves with the advice that there's "love in every moment under the sun" and to strive to enjoy life as it comes.

Gambino, in what is likely his last project as a musician, creates an huge range of music, spanning from electronic eclecticism to funky blues, pop, and touches of soul. Each song houses a lesson if you listen close enough. It's very similar to his previous album, Awaken, My Love, which you can see my review of here.

Rating: 9.7/10

Favorite Tracks: 19.10, 53.49, Algorhythm


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About the Creator

Josh Herring

Emerging writer and published poet | Owner of Modern Music Analysis music publication

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