This week’s SOTW is extremely recent compared to the usual — expect the unexpected. We’re taking a look at 53.49, the closing track from Gambino’s surprise-ish dropped 3.15.20 album from March.
To address the elephant in the room, no, 3.15.20 is far from Gambino’s best work, it’s not that great. Therefore, after almost an hour of wildly ungratifying work from the guy behind one of the best neo-soul albums of the 2010s, this track is like an oasis of cider and punk dykes — pure magic.
53.49 is very obviously split into two very different instrumental moods between its verses and choruses. The verses channels this wild, some would say overly so, animalistic Gambino — injecting this savage, theatrical vocal performance over a eerie sonics and a thwacking beat that’ll have your neck going like you’re bobbing for apples. To be totally honest, this part of the track undeniably requires a couple of listens to completely take to — he goes very hard and some of the lyrics are notch silly — but once you get there, it’s imbued with a primal enthusiasm that is simply infectious.
However, the chorus stretches of the song are simply gorgeous. The beat transitions to this ride-based, fill-heavy groove, while this euphoric rush of choir vocals and reverbed piano is overcoming. Over this, Gambino, hopping this stunning little vocal line that ascends with each repetition, recites the criminally simple, but extremely effective, “There is love in every moment under the sun” hook. It reads like a 2011 Facebook post over a sunset, sure, but, personally, it’s exactly the kind of purity that keeps my head up in these awful times. Throughout the whole thing, Glover showcases his underratedly p h a t vocal range, going from the most neanderthalic of grunts to wailing screams that are higher than a post-vasectomy Chris Tucker.
Depending on who you ask, this is either Donald Glover at his best or his worst, with his most exaggerated traits on Awaken on full display here. Of course, it might just be my increasing need for something radically comforting right now, but I’d call it one of his finest moments.