No one has a life like Donald Glover, and he knows it.
It’s completely useless to rehash the poly in Donald Glover, The Polymath — a figure who has spent more time doing the most over the past five years than nearly anyone in American culture.
That esteem — of being a zeitgeist-shifting showrunner, of being Lando Calrissian, of being Simba (!!) — comes with pressure. And in the midst of that pressure, Glover made 3.15.20.
The album, Glover’s first in nearly four years and possibly his last as Childish Gambino, is a gorgeous, strange, revelatory collection of songs. It’s also a record about just how crazy it is to be so damn famous.
From Michael Jackson’s Bad to Kendrick Lamar’s To Pimp a Butterfly, the world has never had a shortage of albums about fame, but 3.15.20 is different than what’s come before it. The record is focused heavily on the concept of self-love, and how that concept becomes even more crucial — and infinitely more difficult — as more people start to love you.
That’s way Glover sounds so pleading on “19.10,” a track that, despite grooving like a true, romantic version of a love song, is actually directed inwardly.
“To be beautiful is to be hunted / I can’t change the truth, I can’t get you used to this,” Gambino sings in the chorus, seemingly telling himself and others just how impossible it is to truly accept that the world adores you when in reality they don’t really know you.
Thoughts like those are especially true for someone like Glover, who is exceptionally private about his family life and has previously discussed suicide as a means of coping with fame. The 36-year-old has experienced every level of notoriety in his career, and now, at the top of the universe, he’s finding out just how hard it is to keep being himself.
But Glover is always, uncompromisingly himself. Whether he’s tripping on psychedelics in “12.38” or tweaking out in a Yeezus-meets-Black-Panther fever on “32.22,” Gambino fills 3.15.20 with each of his breathtaking idiosyncracies. The album is a series of anecdotes, drawn so clearly from a real person’s real life that enjoying it so much almost feels invasive.
The greatest of those behind-the-curtain moments arrives at the end of “47.48,” a track that, in many ways, serves as the record’s climax. As the song concludes, Glover loops in a conversation with his young son, Legend, in which the two discuss the importance of self-love.
“What do you love?” Glover asks the 4-year-old, who sweetly lists both of his parents before saying, “And I love myself.”
“Do you love yourself?” Legend asks his father, who answers, “I do love myself.”
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