“Awaken, My Love!” is completely unexpected and original, but where did the rap go? This is Glover’s first attempt at a purely R&B album and somehow “Awaken” makes it sound like he’s had plenty of practice making them. How he satisfactorily produced this ambitious album after devoting his musical career to rapping is impressive. It is impossible to deny his multiple talents. I call this album ambitious because it is uncharted territory for Gambino. Yes, he tests out his singing voice a bit on “Kauai”, but he pushes his vocals to their limit on “Awaken” making frequent use of his falsetto. Even so, Glover demonstrates his versatility and while I was constantly anticipating his rapping, his singing did not take away from the album. Straying even further from his comfort zone, this album is full of funk, soul, and psychedelia creating a new and unfamiliar sound.
When “Me and Your Momma” kicks in, I was instantly reminded of the lazy yet precise drumming and stoned guitar of King Crimson so much that it sounded like a tribute to the band. Evidence of this influence shows up in other songs like “Boogieman” and “Zombies”. The vast, trippy production works well with this style, but the ceaseless reverb definitely gets old. Themes of love, loads of clapping, chanting, and church choir style background vocals give the album a Cristian tone that is out of place in an increasingly atheist world and rap scene. The chorus of “Have Some Love” sounds like a hymn sung around the fire at a summer Jesus camp. Peace culture and drugs certainly have a history together, but I’m not so sure the album’s psychedelia goes hand in hand with its soulful characteristics.
The album is an appropriate length, but there are still a couple of songs that it could do without. “California” is clunky and breaks up the album. Its distorted vocals are too much to comfortably listen to. “The Night Me and Your Momma Met” is just unneeded dead space wedged between two already mellow songs. This album may represent uncertainty of where to focus his talents for Glover, or his understanding that he is successful enough to artistically experiment wherever he wants. The absence of even a single rap verse on “Awaken” and his experimentation on “Kauai” raise the question of whether Gambino plans on changing genres permanently. Strangely enough he doesn’t seem to be any better or worse at the R&B trade than rapping, he’ll probably have a dedicated following either way he goes as long as he doesn’t decide to take a sharp turn again.
Album Review by Zachary Norton, March 2017
“Awaken, My Love!”: