Home Music Resequence: Childish Gambino: 3.15.20

Resequence: Childish Gambino: 3.15.20

On March 15th, while the world as we knew it was ending, Donald Glover quietly posted his fourth album as Childish Gambino to donaldgloverpresents.com as a looping live stream. Uploaded to streaming services as 3.15.20 a week later, the record’s tracklist mostly consists of timestamps rather than actual song titles. Glover famously lets his art speak for itself, refusing, for instance, to offer any commentary on his 2018 single “This Is America” or its stunningly provocative music video. But Childish Gambino projects have always come with plenty of context—yes, even if you didn’t read the 70-page screenplay that accompanied Because the Internet.

3.15.20, on the other hand, begs for explanation. One might expect these numerically titled songs to feel unfinished, like the date-time titled tracks on Kendrick Lamar’s B-sides collection Untitled Unmastered, but how does that explain the half-baked live staple “Algorhythm” earning a proper title over “42.26,” which was already released as “Feels Like Summer?” Perhaps, then, Glover wanted to leave his solid white covered album up to listeners’ interpretation à la Sigur Rós’ (). Then again, 3.15.20 and its direct themes and messages aren’t exactly written in Hopelandic.

After a series of thematically and sonically holistic projects, Gambino’s latest album is maddeningly inconsistent. Still, there are plenty of great songs and ideas here. Glover pulls off many styles throughout 3.15.20, often at the same time, and it’s possible he was just a resequencing and some proper song titles away from a great album. With the help of some “leaked” song titles floating around the internet (what’s up, r/donaldglover), here is an attempt to finish 3.15.20.

New Tracklist
1. Why Go to The Party? (39.28)
2. Human Sacrifice
3. Algorhythm
4. Beautiful (19.10)
5. Vibrate (12.38)
6. Feels Like Summer (42.26)
7. Time
8. Don’t Worry About Tomorrow (47.48)
9. We Are (0.00)
10. Under the Sun (53.49)

Omissions: “24.19,” “32.22,” “35.31”

1. Why Go to the Party? (39.28)

The Resequenced 3.15.20 opens with moody interlude “Why Go To the Party?,” on which Glover mourns the death of his father. Multi-tracked vocals sing “Grief is a standing ocean/ I never swam unless you did” over sorrowful piano lines. The song is a more meaningful intro than the sparse “0.00,” and its sadness is recapitulated later in this revised tracklist, giving the album’s gloomier songs more weight. Plus, “Why Go To The Party?” served as an intro to “Human Sacrifice” on Gambino’s 2018 tour.

2. Human Sacrifice

This fan favorite from the 2018 Childish Gambino tour was infuriatingly absent from 3.15.20. With a grandiosity reminiscent of Kendrick and SZA’s Black Panther track “All the Stars,” and a percussive and addictive dance beat similar to 3.15.20 tracks “Algorhythm” and “19.10,” “Human Sacrifice” is the epic announcement of Childish Gambino’s return that we deserved.

3. Algorhythm

A worthy counterpart to “Human Sacrifice,” “Algorhythm” maintains the energy while taking on a darker tone with its glitchy, bass heavy, Yeezus-inspired electronics. Sure, Glover’s symbolism of “algorhythmic” dancing for conformity is a bit high-school-writing-class, but there are plenty of interesting elements to this song, including the second verse’s unsettling screams and the outro’s Midsommar-esque breakdown of howls. Once a harsh introduction to the album, “Algorhythm” is far more effective as a follow-up to the brighter “Human Sacrifice.”

4. Beautiful (19.10)

One of Glover’s most brilliant moves on his Funkadelic love letter “Awaken, My Love!” was grouping the high energy tracks in the album’s first half and saving the more somber songs for the second part. 3.15.20 could have benefited from a similar structure. “Beautiful” rounds out this tracklist’s first act with an infectious groove and makes the darker songs that follow feel far more earned. The track also sees Glover recalling his father’s advice as he eloquently grapples with society leeching off black culture, singing “To be beautiful is to be hunted.” This is a theme that Glover has explored on “Awaken, My Love’s!” “Zombies” and elsewhere, and it adds some welcome lyrical depth as we enter the core of this revised tracklist.

5. Vibrate (12.38)

The six-and-a-half minute, 21 Savage-featuring funk trip “Vibrate” serves as a fitting centerpiece and bridge between the Resequence’s lively first half and meditative second half. The song’s lyrical content literally documents a transition as Glover descends into a mushroom trip over wonky R&B effects. Quirky but never cheesy, the song is a perfect backdrop for the perfect dosage of 21 Savage, who offers such wonderfully goofy bars as “Got a girl in Harvard/ I talk proper when I call her.” The glitched-out outro offers just enough sonic consistency with the album’s first half before ushering in the hazy “42.26.”

6. Feels Like Summer (42.26)

“Feels Like Summer” actually works quite well as a pensive emotional low point before the original tracklist’s climax and resolution. Here it moves up just a couple spots to set a new tone and provide some context for the once out of place “Time.” Glover laments the bleak state of the world over a feet-dragging beat and a melancholy acoustic, singing “Every day gets hotter than the one before/ Running out of water, it’s about to go down.”

7. Time

Moving at a similar tempo and bringing the acoustic guitar to the foreground, “Time” satisfyingly expands on the preceding “Feels Like Summer.” Glover sings about the same themes as well, re-expressing his concern for all “seven billion” people moving too fast and “running out of time.” Short-circuited electronics, church-like backing vocals and a subtle but strong chorus from Ariana Grande carry us to the album’s thematic climax.

8. Don’t Worry About Tomorrow (47.48)

On “Baby Boy” off of “Awaken, My Love!”, Donald Glover contextualized the societal issues of racism and violence, which he had addressed in the album’s first eight songs, as a fear for his newborn child’s upbringing. He makes a similar effort on “Don’t Worry About Tomorrow,” even bringing back some P-Funk elements as he quells his fear of “the violence” before engaging in a direct conversation about love with his son. It’s a moving sign of Glover’s growth, and it’s made all the more impactful by a dramatic leadup and a subsequent interlude that parallels “Awaken, My Love’s!” moment of clarity.

9. We Are (0.00)

This sparse interlude, once an overlong and puzzling album opener, works now as a moment of bliss after the climactic “Don’t Worry About Tomorrow.” It also structurally resembles the instrumental that follows “Baby Boy,” further cementing the thematic connection.

10. Under The Sun (53.49)

3.15.20’s banger of a closer can stay right where it is. Gambino does his best Anderson .Paak impression over clanging percussion as he preaches to his son “Do what you wanna do” and proclaims “Never said it even though I probably should/ I said I love me.” “Under the Sun” is a triumphant closer to an album about beauty and self-expression in a violent world.

Omissions

24.19

At a whopping eight minutes, the P-Funk slow jam “24.19” has some sweet sentiments and powerhouse vocals from Glover, but the song is far too long and the singer’s shouts of love don’t have a place thematically in 3.15.20’s tracklist.

32.22

By far the most experimental song here, “32.22” features abrasive Auto-Tune, screeching electronics and…farm animals? No amount of Resequencing can explain this mess.

35.31

“35.31” is Glover’s catchiest song in years. The bright guitar line and celebratory cheers are a joy, and perhaps the song would work well over the credits if this album were a movie, but tonally the track sticks out like a sore thumb no matter where it’s placed in the tracklist.

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