We’re well into summer. When Justin Timberlake tried to insert himself into the Song of the Summer conversation late in the game with a weak ass submission, I judged him for it. Donald Glover has been just as blatant about vying for the 2018 Heatwave Jam with the two-track EP he released as Childish Gambino called Summer Pack.
The difference is that Childish Gambino’s songs are good. Really good. They’re angling for a title they will never get but I appreciate the effort. I like both of these songs a lot. There’s “Summertime Magic”, a gorgeous, silky, musical equivalent of a shot of cool breeze in a scorching humidex. It’s incredibly on-the-nose with lyrics like…
You feel like summertime
You took this heart of mine
You'll be my valentine in the summer, in the summer
So yeah, if you were expecting the seasonal “This Is America,” you may be disappointed. It’s not a searing commentary on race in the Trump era but that’s OK. Pitchfork called Childish’s new songs “bloodless” and “vacant” (classic Pitchfork). Can’t we just have some fun sometimes? I understand that once an artist tackles serious sh-t, that’s all that’s expected of them but for Childish Gambino specifically, who was criticized for capitalizing on black pain in “This Is America,” he’s showing a lighter, more relaxed side on two songs independent from whatever he’s planning for his next album. Let the man live. Pitchfork’s review reminded me of this tweet currently going viral:
Black life is not inherently tragic.— Victor LaValle (@victorlavalle) July 11, 2018
Any art that assumes it is is bad art.
The Ringer’s Micah Peters wrote a piece called “Childish Gambino’s New ‘Summer Pack’ Isn’t Urgent, and That’s Fine” reminding us to take these songs for what they are: “placid, airy, and will fit nicely into your “Four Buttons Undone” playlist.”
“Feels Like Summer” is the sexier track that some outlets are trying to turn into something more than it is. It’s less optimistic than “Summertime Magic” but I think it’s a bit of a stretch to, like Bustle, say that “Feels Like Summer” is about “water scarcity, global warming, pollution, and bee extinction.”
Every day gets hotter than the one before
Running out of water, it’s about to go down
Air that kill the bees that we depend upon
Birds were made for singing
Waking up to no sound
I mean, technically these lyrics are about “water scarcity, global warming, pollution, and bee extinction” but I think they’ve found their way in this song just like how you can’t get through a conversation at a BBQ these days without casually mentioning that the world is burning and we’re all going to die. You know, light summer fun! Let’s not overthink the two big scoops of refreshing ice cream Donald Glover just gifted us. We can go back to the worry, the pain and the suffering tomorrow. Today, we dance.