Exactly a week after one of the most cryptic album announcements, Donald Glover officially released his highly anticipated fourth studio album called 03.15.20. Before we get into the album itself, let’s talk about its release because it is so interesting and SO strange.
1. One week ago, a fan account noticed that the website www.donaldgloverpresents.com was up and was playing music on a loop
2. The tweet was later retweeted by members of Donald Glover’s team, although there was no further confirmation or subsequent explanation
3. The site has “Donald Glover Presents” branding similar to that of Glover’s partnership with Adidas. There’s also a three panel piece of art showing a crowd of people panicking. Fans figure out that the music looping on the site is from Glover’s upcoming album, and some even identify tracks and featured artists based on Glover’s tours and earlier performances. There’s also a free text submission field that seemingly submits your response into the void.
4. Approximately 12 hours later, everything disappears although the site is still live.
5. On Friday, March 20, a countdown appears. No one knows what for. Atlanta? Album? Something else?
6. People figure out that the countdown leads to midnight March 22, and everyone eagerly awaits to see what it is.
7. At midnight on March 22nd, Donald Glover releases his fourth album, 03.15.20.
8. The album artwork is simply a blank, off-white cover with nothing else on it
9. The album is available for streaming on all platforms, as well as a continuous single-track. Also, for a limited time, the album will once again be streamed on the website for those interested in a “communal vibe”.
10. During this time, the site has a picture of a handwritten journal entry (which I screenshotted because this man has taught me to record everything now).
11. The journal entry and streaming eventually disappear from the site.
12. The album is listed under Childish Gambino, although the continuous, single-track version is listed under Donald Glover Presents and features slightly altered album artwork.
13. All but two tracks aren’t named but rather listed as timestamp indicating where they appear in relation to the whole album
I have so many questions, and I don’t think any of them are going to be answered. It seems obvious now that the initial 12 hour stream was a promo for the upcoming album. But also note that the title of the album is the same date as that stream. Why name an album after the date of a promo stunt? Additionally, although the website is Donald Glover Presents, the album is under Childish Gambino. Why? Why isn’t there any album artwork? What does the journal entry mean? What was the significance of the three-paneled artwork? Why aren’t the tracks named? WHAT WAS THE TEXTBOX FOR? AHHHHHHHHHHH!
We’re given no help finding these answers, so Twitter is working hard. One person noted the similarity between the album’s aesthetic and Glover’s Adidas partnership, which might explain the blank album artwork.
the childish gambino cover art is a blank canvas so the listener can do what they want with it, just like the white shoes that donald glover released last year pic.twitter.com/4udhGP88CH— 𓃰 (@EANTERNET) March 22, 2020
Additionally, the looping stream, the tracks named after their timestamp, and the secondary release of a single-track version all point to Glover wanting us to listen to this album as a whole entity, one where songs and tracks flow into one another.
That’s how I listened to it, and I would recommend it to everyone. It’s a really good album, which isn’t surprising for someone like Donald Glover who seems like the most talented person on the planet. But more than that, it’s an experience. There are some clear Gambino sounds in lot of the tracks, but many others sound experimental and soundscape-y, super trippy, and I swear I was basically in a trance for half the album. If you have the time (and some people do, though not all, especially parents working from home), you should definitely set aside 57 mins to just sit and listen to this album non-stop. I had goosebumps the entire time, and it was a welcome respite from everything that’s going on right now.
Donald Glover here to save us from being stuck in our homes by teaching our souls to float from our bodies and into the cosmos.— Zach Kornfeld (@korndiddy) March 22, 2020
Is it just me or does all of this feel a little Beyoncian? I don’t mean to lump Childish Gambino and Beyoncé together. What I mean is that both Donald Glover and Beyoncé are serious about their craft and excel at creating moments and experiences, not just albums. They’re always dropping sh-t on their fans without any explanation or context. If Beyoncé is Queen, is Donald Glover King? (Nala and Simba, ha.)
As the last album for Childish Gambino, we’ve reached the end of one creative era and hopefully the start the next. If this is how Donald Glover approaches endings, what could he possibly do in the future?