Donald Glover, or going by his stage name he got on a Wu-Tang Clan name generator, Childish Gambino, is more than just an actor or musician. The man is a pure entertainer, pure and simple. Not only has he enjoyed a successful career in music, he’s also an accomplished actor both on the small screen and the big screen. Well known for his role as Troy on acclaimed comedy series, Community, Glover has gone on to much bigger roles such as Lando Calrissian in Solo: A Star Wars Story, the voice of Simba in Disney’s remake of The Lion King, and writes, produces, directs, and stars in the television series Atlanta. He’s also the chief creative force behind all of his music videos, has a surprisingly good hour long stand up special, and of course is one hell of a performer at concerts. Today’s addition to the Musical Training Plan, Gambino’s 2nd studio album, does a pretty good job showcasing the varied talents of Donald Glover. Released along with an accompanying short film, 72 page screenplay, website, and unique live show all thanks to Glover, 2013’s Because the Internet is more than just an album, rather, it’s a multi-media experience. A little world of Glover’s creation all built around the ever important album and all around a whole lotta fun, let’s get into it.
Because the Internet comes in just under an hour long and there isn’t a moment wasted on this one of a kind album. It follows a loose narrative that is made easier to understand alongside the accompanying screenplay, but for the sake of blog I’ll just say that it follows a young man struggling to find himself and be happy in the digital age that he’s found himself in. Since its release 8 years ago, the themes on Because the Internet have aged remarkably well and are relevant as ever coming off of a pandemic induced nationwide quarantine. Even if the introverted anxiety and internet age induced stresses that take center stage on this album aren’t super relatable to you, it isn’t hard to sympathize with the ever charming and likable Gambino’s character and his struggles with women and mental health. Part of the reason that this social commentary works so well is that it’s educated by Glover’s real work experiences and difficulties with media in its many forms. The story goes that Glover felt that his life was affected by social media in particular so negatively that he deleted all social media and while working on this album enforced 2 strict rules: no social media and no shoes. Question his methods all you want but the result was one heck of an interesting album.
Gambino has got bars on this album, which is to say, of course, that his lyricism both when rapping and singing brings the whole project together and will impress even the hardest of Hip-hop heads. Glover works with a variety of styles including rap/Hip-hop, R&B, house music, psychedelia, and experiments with absolutely everything he can think of. The sonic landscape of this album is so good, which isn’t to say that it all sounds good, but the high levels of creativity and production resulted in pitch perfect musical backdrops for each and every track. As the album progresses the listener will notice less and less melodic, radio friendly, sing along-able tracks as Glover’s character’s struggles become worse and worse. As I said before, it is more an experience than just an album and as such the record advances into more emotional, thoughtful territory as the ever interesting and engaging music becomes less appealing to the ear. Much like Sinatra’s ability to become more desperate and in pain as In the Wee Small Hours advances, Gambino is able to communicate worsening mental states as Because the Internet goes deeper into its track list. Whether or not you find it very fun, the artistic accomplishment, confidence as a performer, and technical prowess on display on Because the Internet are nearly undeniable, and I’m very glad to be able to recommend it to you all on this, the final day of this month’s Musical Training Plan.
Thanks for reading, the internet is not real, go spend time with your loved ones.