“I don’t have all the answers that a celebrity is supposed to have,” Kanye West ironically said to Charlamagne in his almost exclusive, almost two-hour interview. So forgive us if we’re a touch reticent about gleefully proclaiming the rise of the next celebrity genius speaking for our collective selves, just as one artfully falls from grace. If politics has indeed become a podium for performance art, and we’re now battling our instincts for survival in A Kanye Place, has Childish Gambino quite literally (excuse the pun) trumped Kanye at his own game of thrones? Whatever this game is about, it’s not about watching the throne, it’s an open battle with our demons and dragons.
Donald Glover – can do anything – and his opening SNL monologue self-deprecatingly proved this point, “some people like to call me a triple threat, but I kinda like to call myself just a threat”. If the case hadn’t already been made with comedic flair, within hours of hosting the show, the multi-faceted, multi-award winning, actor/writer/singer quite literally gave the world a rude-awakening in the early hours of Sunday morning and unleashed a twitter-storm with ‘This Is America’.
Donald Glover – can’t save you – but the world wants saving and while dissecting the dichotomy of ‘This Is America’ we clocked 30 millions views in just two days, while collectively anointing a new god, all within days of a confusing TMZ triggered week. Theories have ensued on the meaning behind the meaning, just as coverage of ‘heavenly bodies’ floating along the Met Ball carpet hit every feed, and Donald Glover rose to occasion in true fashion. In the midst of all this celebrity mania and god-complexes, we have to wonder; is this all really just a mad coincidence or are we in for the cruellest summer?
‘This Is America’ and the persona of Childish Gambino (created from an internet name-generator), will undoubtedly be held up in years to come as a marker of this minefield of our times – it is P.T.S.D in praxis. Donald Glover is himself quite deliberate in his intention to provoke.
Frequent Atlanta director and Glover collaborator, whose standout ‘Teddy Perkins’ episode still has my mind-warped, Hiro Murai, laid out a scene of surreal disturbia for the music video. As Childish Gambino brilliantly choregraphed by Sherrie Silver, delivers an eye-popping performance, he literally dances a riot. Vigorously gripping with a milieu of confrontational and celebratory images simultaneously raging across our screen, ‘This Is America’ warrants multiple viewing and justifies it’s endless theorising.
It’s not as straightforward as we want the narrative to be, nothing can be written off, or written into history without consequence or context. History begs us to ask, how else would we have deciphered this visual metaphor, if Kanye hadn’t donned a ‘MAGA’ hat the week before? It all feels strangely prophetic in its shock-value and in its gambit for our attention. Culture won’t give us any answers, but it’s certainly channeling our conflicting state of communal rage and awe. Just as quick as we are in glorifying new gods, in a tweet we’re complicit in collectively cancelling them.
If there’s one thing you should have learned from Gambino by now, nothing is as it seems. Co-produced and co-written with another frequent Glover collaborator, Ludwig Göransson, the song is seemingly an ode to Atlanta itself. Remember this is the man who declared that Migos are “the Beatles of this generation” in his Golden Globe acceptance speech. It’s debatable who the message is directed at, with adlibs from 21 Savage, Slim Jxmmi (of Rae Sremmurd), Quavo and finally with a closing refrain from Young Thug, who is really chasing who and what?
‘This is America’ speaks on more than America, it speaks on the culture itself and all in its gory glory.
Somewhat overlooked, also on Saturday Night Live, Gambino premiered ‘Saturday’, a groove-ridden angsty party tune, that literally wants to throw our cares away and dance the night away. Sick of monotony, the throw-back percussive production, also in collaboration with Ludwig Göransson, has the sensibility of Gambino’s last project ‘Awaken, My Love’, but paired with ‘This Is America’ promises something altogether unexpected.
BBC 2 in the UK, has also announced the Emmy & Golden-Globe award-winning first series will finally reach UK screens on the 12th of May, just as the 2nd season ends in the U.S. Better late than never, if you’ve seen it already than watching it again is pure pleasure principle, if you’ve been living under a stone – then just watch the damn thing!