Donald Glover is a jack-of-all-trades, not only running the gamut of creativity across the entertainment industry, but also serving up a buffet of musical flavors throughout his discography.
His prior projects each centered around a unique theme and sound. Camp was an audacious rookie flexing his creative muscles; Because the Internet was a technology cleanse filled with spacey beach synths; STN MTN / Kauai displayed the duality of his trappy Atlanta roots and tropical pop anthems; “Awaken, My Love!” was a 70s funk tribute to his new family.
On 3.15.20, Gambino pulls the best from each of his phases and pushes the boundaries of what a song can be.
Initially released on March 15, 2020, as a bundle of songs on repeat on donaldgloverpresents.com, the collection was taken down later that day and replaced by a 7-day countdown. The expiration of that countdown yielded the album, titled 3.15.20, available for streaming.
Only two tracks have alphabetical names; the rest are merely numerical timestamps. Most will recognize “42.26” by its former name, “Feels Like Summer,” Gambino’s 2018 hit with a heavier message than its airy production would insinuate.
A handful of the song outros seem to melt down from the incredibly clean and tight-knit production of the track bodies, displaying a loose, chaotic release of energy.
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“Algorhythm,” an 808s & Heartbreak-esque head-nodder — which literally divulges into the formula of funk and groove — breaks down at 2:54 when Gambino’s harmonic chants go haywire, causing the drums and bass to follow suit. Songs with previous collaborators, like “Time” with Ariana Grande, “12.38” with 21 Savage, see Glover and his team taking the underlying sounds to new heights.
“24.19” is an 8-minute epic co-produced by Los Angeles hitmaker DJ Dahi, who assisted on nine of 12 tracks on the album. Primarily a display of gratitude for the woman he loves, the last minute shows Glover’s heart pounding and breathing intensifying through an abusive kick drum and actual breathing snippets, only to settle back to normal in the final seconds as the next track’s ominous synth bass crescendos.
“32.22” is an erratic rumble that feels like you’ve been dropped into tribal warfare. Grasping the track is initially difficult as percussion comes in layer by layer and changes perception of the rhythm. The rumbling synth bass and hyper-aggressive singing with a flurry of WOOs and YEAHs make Gambino’s uneasiness apparent on this track as he “got them feelings bad / most them bones going bad.”
From this point on, you realize that “32.22” serves as an informal climax to the rapper-turned-singer’s climactic album.
“35.31” has Bino rapping over a cheery country beat about his experiences serving drugs in his youth, with the evident irony of the lyrical / musical juxtaposition. At 2:39, the beat turns trap to match his lyrics with booming 808s, rolling hi-hats and signature trap claps.
The project as a whole, while not uniformly light-hearted or carefree, has an air of relief to it. He talks about topics close to his heart, not feeling the need to confine them into a bubble of structure and cohesion — although each track in itself is impeccably produced.
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Bino emphatically and soulfully voices this sense of closure on the final track “53.49,” hinting at this album being his victory lap on the way toward musical retirement:
“I did what I wanted to, yeah, yeah / Now I just power forward.”
Conceptually dense and sonically rich, 3.15.20 clicks for the introspective looking to decipher the deepest of meanings and the inebriated in search of head-nodding hypnosis. A decade of music by Donald Glover, spanning countless genres, culminated in Childish Gambino’s magnum opus.