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On his hit TV series, Atlanta, actor Donald Glover plays the character Earnest "Earn" Marks, an apathetic slacker trying to get his life together. With his dry, sarcastic wit, it seems the protagonist doesn't care about much at all. He slugs through each episode and his voice barely notches above a drone. It works beautifully on the show: While Glover is Atlanta's central figure, he's able to dial back just enough, giving his co-stars plenty of room to shine on their own.
So in a way, it's surprising to hear Glover sing so vigorously on "Me And Your Mama," the seething first single and opening track of his forthcoming album, Awaken, My Love! On the three-part tune, Glover — who records music under the name Childish Gambino — emits a blistering gospel-rock ethos sonically reminiscent of Parliament Funkadelic, OutKast and Pink Floyd. Whereas his previous output leaned heavily on hipster-rap, here Glover merges old and current sounds, making an ambitious collage of 808 drums, live instruments and choral wails. It begins as a lullaby: Twinkling chimes and jarring bass make up the track's weed-induced intro; and at the two-minute mark, Glover bursts into a desperate rant of love-fueled angst. Perhaps inspired by the time spent filming in his hometown, "Me And Your Mama" easily combines Southern rap and psychedelic soul.
At its core, "Me And Your Mama" wrestles with the same gut-wrenching agony that The O'Jays and Lenny Williams did on 1973's "You Got Your Hooks In Me" and 1978's "Cause I Love You," respectively. In each instance, the vocalists make last-ditch efforts to atone or break away from romantic peril, and on "Me And Your Mama," Glover strikes the same chord in the rawest way possible. "Girl, you really got a hold on me," he exclaims through a tortured inflection. "So this isn't just puppy love!" The song marks a dramatic leap in Glover's creative evolution and punctuates what's already been a stellar year for the artist (he's also been confirmed to play Lando Calrissian in the 2018 Han Solo Star Wars movie). It's unclear if Glover's character will straighten up on Atlanta, but the actor himself is on a roll.
Awaken, My Love! comes out Dec. 2 on Glassnote Entertainment Group.
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