Album Review: Childish Gambino’s 3.15.20

Some longtime fans of Childish Gambino might have been surprised by the heavily digital sound of his new album “3.15.20.” The song “0.00” begins the album with a note similar to a dial-tone before transitioning to the echoing, synthesized phrase of “We are, we are, we are.”

Despite this abstract beginning, the album regains the heavy, high pace driven momentum typically found in Gambino’s music with the second track, “Algorhythm.” With a discordant beat, the listener is thrown into the first synthesized verse from Gambino. This aggressive melody creates the mood of the rest of the album.

“3.15.20” is a departure from Gambino’s previous albums but ultimately features all the skills and complexities that Gambino has developed throughout his career. The  storyline seems to be speaking to the listener throughout the album, with the transitions between tracks t almost undetectable due to a baseline electronic beat.

The album features 12 songs. 10 of those are titled as different numbers, with the exception of “Algorhythm” and “Time.” Whereas “Algorhythm” showcased chaos and aggressive beat placement, “Time” features a more harmonious melody with the introduction of an acoustic sound to accompany the basic electronic beat that was used to transition into the song. 

“Time” also features Ariana Grande, her vocals contrasting and complimenting Gambino’s voice, with the track finishing with a choral background and ultimately ending on yet another dissonant, electronic beat, before being flung directly into a rap verse in “12.38.”

The remaining songs featured on the album maintain a general theme of electronic sounds, R&B tones, and funk. Songs such as “19.20.” “32.22.” and the final track of the album “53.49” all display aggressive tones and vocals similar to previous tracks in Gambino’s discography such as “3005” and “Freaks and Geeks.” 

“19.20.” “32.22.” and “53.49” all showcase this aggressive style while working with the instrumentals to create a cohesive and distinct tone throughout each track. This marriage between instrumentals and performance style sets this album apart from Gambino’s previous albums.

Gambino also includes more political commentary sprinkled throughout the album. There are lyrics conveying the state of black rights in America, particularly in “47.48” which has themes of the #BlackLivesMatter movement. This commentary is expected from an artist of Gambino’s caliber, particularly following the release of his track “This is America” in May 2018. 

Along with “47.48” Gambino creates discussion of black culture in “35.31.” This song also includes a backwards monologue at the completion of the song that is later repeated in “39.28.” This monologue in “35.31” juxtaposes the rather joyous track, possibly explaining the reasoning behind the backmasking of the verse that is later found in the almost spoken-word, slam poetry track of “39.28.”

The album features a familiar track, previously titled “Feels Like Summer” that is retitled as “42.26.” This track was originally released in July 2018, with the only changes to the track being an introduction and transition that reflects the digitalized theme found throughout the album.

The final two tracks of the album showcase an emotional and celebratory melody, particularly in “47.48” which finishes off with a soundbite between Gambino and a child. This touching moment closes the album before re-igniting into the explosive finale of “53.49” that features energetic vocals, passionate harmonies and celebratory energy.

Ultimately, “3.15.20” sets itself apart from the rest of Gambino’s discography while showcasing his development in the music industry.

To listen to the album, click here.

Story by Alex Greenwell
Photos by: and