Reviewing Childish Gambino’s Because The Internet
Donald Glover’s (formerly known as Childish Gambino with the release of his last album) artistic reach has extended beyond just music. This actor/producer/director/musician hybrid has created enticing work in every field he has worked in. For example, hit TV show Atlanta, which is recording its next two seasons as I write this. Because the Internet is (probably; definitely in my opinion) Glover’s best work musically as it has been critically acclaimed by many music critics.
This album travels through Glover’s psyche as he experiences isolation, love, and how social media/the internet affects this experience. The song follows a specific play of events, however, I will be strictly be reviewing the music rather the story it accompanies. Here’s a little more about the accompanying screenplay.
Accompanied by a screenplay (embedded below), this album combines two mediums (sound and visual) to convey its meaning in relations to its songs. A compilation of scenes are backed by snippets of music pertaining to the visual scenes in order to capture the truer nature of each interaction. This is intentional in its delivery, as the album is titled Because The Internet. Human interaction seems to be dulled or altered by the presence of the internet and social media and it shows especially in these scenes. The titles of the songs are predicated upon the order they show up in the screenplay and are outlined in such a way that you expect you’d be reading a script. From here, though, I will be looking at the music aspect of this album (highlighting several of the best songs).
“Worldstar” further captures the fascination of the internet in this album. It focuses on the impact satirical sites have on who we are as people and serves as a reminder that these sites are largely a distraction. We laugh at others faults and pain to hide or distract from our own. The website Worldstar is largely built upon this premise. Ultimately, this song speaks in a satirical manner of the people that buy into the hype of these forms of media. At times, it makes or breaks people; for Glover, it made him, as he was a star featuring in the hit show Community before taking the world by storm in the music stratosphere.
I. The Worst Guys
With the infamous hook/chorus of this song (All she needed was some…), accompanied by Chance the Rapper, this song is sexual in nature of course. Highlighting the disposition of women he is with and Glover’s role in providing this action. He flexes money and power to secure the deal, unfortunately, this ends a little differently than he imagined:
I had a ménage, and murdered the vag’ But, afterwards, it was awkward as fuck ’Cause I’m nervous as fuck and could not get it up I-I-I-I, I need a minute, cold water to the face I-I, I couldn’t finish, got the Uber from her place On my porch smoking vapor, hit with the Sunday paper Listening to the neighbors…
This, again, ties into the provided screenplay along with another short provided on Glover’s website. This song sets up the scene for later insecurities and advances the narrative.
III. Telegraph Ave. (“Oakland” by Lloyd)
Sampling “Oakland” by Lloyd, this song is captivating in how seamless Lloyd and Gambino alternate verses. Glover is actively going out of his way to reunite with a former love interest. So much so he is willing to break basic traffic laws in order to get there faster. Despite the stop signs and red lights present both physically and mentally, he believes this venture will be worth it regardless. And thinking about how this rendezvous might go, Gambino starts to have second thoughts:
“So I guess it all depends On Oakland, on Oakland And I’m nervous, truth be told I never saw me growing old In Oakland, in Oakland And if I married you tonight It would probably start a riot In Oakland, in Oakland"
Oakland can be representative of something more than just the city. It could represent commitment and settling down, or ultimately, the finish line of their relationship — whether it be beginning or ending.
In “3005”, Glover bares it all for the world to see. In perhaps the most commercially successful song of the album, Gambino turns to a more vulnerable side while singing a couple pitches higher than normal causing many to think that this is a love song. However, according to Glover, this isn’t the case: “It’s kind of an existential thing. I’m just really scared of being alone. […] I had a purpose…I kind of feel lost. I kind of lost that, I feel.” (HipHopDX, Fuse News). The fear of being alone causes Glover to become supremely attached to his lover and as a result promises a millennium of commitment. However adamant Gambino may be about this not being a love song, is surely evokes a loving message despite the inspiration for the song.
II. Zealots of Stockholm [Free Information]
The intro of this song, it serves as an inner monologue and an ode to his late father as his time “came too soon” and convincing himself he is a good son despite their broken relationship. However, this stream of consciousness is quickly broken by the beat switch, and with it the theme of the song. It switches from slow and almost heartbreaking to a more party atmosphere sound.
The first verse is a story telling scene of a moment of interaction between Gambino and another woman. He finds comfort in this woman, and she in him. She has a man already however, she is willing to let it go just to “feel something”. Whether that be sex, love, or drugs or a combination thereof — her man is apparently unable to provide them. This is followed by a haunting hook: “Is it real because you’re online”. This line stays true to the theme of the album. Questioning the true motives of people based on their online presence is valid as this interaction can lead to consequences unforeseen.
Again, we have another switch of tone and theme. It is more inline with the intro of the song. Gambino questions his existence and poignantly points out that life can end as quickly as it came about. And that because some worship a lost god, our prayers and contributions to this idol go without justification and that we are living a lie of a life.
As heavy as the implication of this song and the rest of the album is, it is an enticing listen with no skips. Tie this in with the screenplay while you are listening, you truly get a captivating experience. Even without the visual, this album has an inviting story telling aspect on its own. Traveling through the psyche of the lonely leads to kaleidoscope adventures, just look at artists like Kid Cudi.
Give the highlighted songs a listen and tell me what you think! Some find it hard to get into Gambino, but these songs will give you the best introduction you can get. I’ll admit, I wasn’t a fan of Glover and didn’t respect his work until I watched him in Community. Even then, you could see his artistic prowess and as a result, the genius that was sure to show.