“Awaken, My Love!” – Childish Gambino

My personal favorite funk album, “Awaken, My Love!”, was a total departure from Childish Gambino’s other work; the cerebral cinematic rap of because the internet and the hard-hitting bars of Camp don’t really set the stage for this album, and Gambino’s work hasn’t since stuck to these magical retro synth sounds, layered melodies, or broken-up rhythms. This album is thoroughly good, oozing quality even in the notes that you’re not expected to hear; every track on each of this album’s songs is a melody unto itself that you can follow throughout the song. The obvious standout is “Redbone”, a slow synth jam over an IV-V-vi chord progression with one of the all time greatest riffs ever written and truly exceptional production throughout the song; it’s got such an intense feeling of release when the drums of the innovative pre-chorus fall out and the chorus demands your attention. It honestly makes sense that the producer on this album, besides Gambino himself, is Ludwig Göransson; this is cinematic orchestration, even though it’s absolutely classic funk. Let’s just look at “California”: it starts with a syncopated synth riff with a guitar playing the same thing under it, then they add maracas outlining the beat, some triangle to accentuate the measures, what sounds like a Hammond organ harmonizing with the riff, and then Gambino comes in with bright, silly vocals, Göransson takes over the instrumental with a bouncy, fun bass riff, and we’re off. That’s a guaranteed hit, and that’s not even mentioning the makeshift bottle woodwinds they introduce later in the song. By the way, Childish Gambino is an absolutely wild vocalist, using a different voice on every song on the album and constantly knocking it out of the park with passionate, perfect delivery. Other highlights on this album are the epic energy of the beat on “Riot”, the “Aqualung”-style interplay between the riff and chorus on “Boogieman”, the subtle background bongos on “Terrified”, and the totally insane background vocals over harpsichord on “Zombies”. I really like this album, I think it works in a lot of different ways, I think it’s really innovative and is worth taking influence from, and I think you might really like it!

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