2016, Music

“Awaken, My Love!” (2016) by Childish Gambino

I am familiar with Donald Glover primarily from Community. More recently I have begun (slowly) watching Atlanta and we briefly started Mr. and Mrs. Smith. What I’m saying is I know him entirely as an actor. I think I may have heard one of his hits at some point but I don’t remember which song it was. Fortunately for me, I am quite familiar with the kind of music he’s making on this album.

I’m torn here. On the one hand, this is a blatant ripoff of P-Funk, for the most part. (More generously, it’s a tribute.) On the other hand, as ripoffs/tributes go, it’s a lot of fun, full of creative ideas and relatively stylistic diversity. It’s hard to be too mad at it, especially given how little other music (I am aware of) that is so worshipful of George Clinton and Parliament-Funkadelic.

The songs are definitely not the problem. They are usually pretty catchy and, as others have pointed out, “Me and Your Mama” is a classic of the genre. Some people have claimed that a few of these are so close to their inspiration that it’s basically theft but I think that it’s not necessarily the songs themselves that are the problem.

Glover himself is pretty great, too. He sings in a number of different styles – channelling other singers of course – and keeps it interesting from track to track. Yes, he is absolutely imitating other people at times, but he is doing it successfully and he does enough with his voice, and the effects on his voice, that it keeps things fresh.

I think the issue is entirely the palette that Glove and Göransson have created. Even though they are using 21st century production techniques which Clinton did not have access too, and are influenced by music production since Parliament-Funkadelic’s heyday, it is so hard to separate most of these tracks echo their sound so hard – in the guitar and keyboards most of all, but sometimes also in the drums, percussion and bass, and also obviously in some of Glover’s delivery.

I want to rate this higher than I am, because it’s fun and I thoroughly enjoy it. But it’s just really, really hard to ignore how ridiculously indebted it is to its influences.


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