Childish Gambino’s “This Is America” Song Review

Hello, I’m MusiCommentator, and I saw “Solo” this past weekend.  It was…decent.  It did not really feel like I was watching a Star Wars movie or a movie about Han Solo, but the film itself was serviceable enough.  If there’s one thing I really liked about it, though, it would be Donald Glover’s performance as Lando.

Donald Glover has been very busy recently.  With his hit show “Atlanta” getting another season, his consistent roles in movies like “Solo”, and his time working on his newest (and supposedly last) album, I do not know when this man has time to sleep.  His career as rapper Childish Gambino has been thrown back into the limelight with his new song “This Is America”, which debuted at number one on the Billboard Hot 100 thanks to its wickedly amazing music video and controversial subject matter.  Every music reviewer has been talking about it, so I guess I should give my opinions on it, too.

For me, I thought of it the same way I thought of “Solo”; it was decent.

Now, don’t get me wrong.  There are a lot of great things about this track.  Starting off at the beginning, I love the African-influenced choir.  It appears multiple times throughout the track and it sounds so intimate and beautiful.  I like the beat when it becomes more trap-influenced, too, as the bass reflects the dark subject matter.  The beat is just fantastic overall.  I am also a fan of the ad-libs Gambino got from other rappers.  I hate Young Thug, but even he sounds good on this track, even in his little outro.

My main problems with this song lies in the lyrics and the flow.

I mainly concur with the big lyrical problem everyone talks about who doesn’t like this song; they’re too simple.  I mean, this is a political track.  I would expect some detailed exposé of the problem, with the song itself being about all the problems black people face in America.  However, many of the lyrics seem shortsighted.  It is not always like this, as some of the lyrics’ simplicity lends to clever double-meanings.  For example, this line:

Get your money, Black man (get your—Black man)
Get your money, Black man (get your—Black man)

The choir, who represents the uplifting of black culture, encourages the African-American audience to go and get money and chase their dreams, but Childish Gambino uses these same words to twist the meaning around by cutting out the “money” part of the line, making it “get your black man”, which portrays the opposite of what the choir was saying.

Also, the lyrics in the verses as a whole have a certain vagueness to them that lead to lines where it is hard to tell whether it is coming from the white side or black side of the story, ultimately giving many parts double meanings like the one mentioned above.  Another example of this is the “1-2-3, Get down!” part before the bass joins the choir.  In one hand, it can mean to get down to a song, like dance, but on the other, it can represent the violence that has been going on, and “get down” would be threatening in this sense.

But, there are also many lines with so much simplicity that it makes me want more from them.  Look at the first lyrics in the first verse.

This is America
Don’t catch you slippin’ now
Don’t catch you slippin’ now
Look what I’m whippin’ now

I just want more from these lyrics.  I get the first few lines.  He boldly states “This is America”, making the audience expect him to go into a rant on all the things wrong with it, or even portray bad things in a good light for ironic effect.  The next two lines refer to black men being targeted and that one slip up will be detrimental to their life, but the last line has always befuddled me since I first heard this track.  “Look what I’m whippin’ now”.  Is he talking about police or the black man?  If he is talking about police, then what is he whipping up?  Violence?  Guns?  It never gives us any clues as to what he could be talking about.

This whole track is about the problems black culture faces in white society and the negative portrayal of blacks.  With such a topic, I find it surprising that the only direct reference to policemen is the immature-sounding line “Police be trippin’ now”, but I do appreciate how he goes into other topics.  However, their execution is wonky.  He seems to jump from topic to topic in such a way that I became confused the first couple times I listened to this.  I like this execution in a way, because it reflects out abrupt and impatient American culture is, as we jump from one thing to the next so quickly, but as I said, it makes the song a bit confusing from the listener’s point of view.

Another one of my major issues is Gambino’s flow throughout the track.  He takes on a very simple flow, and I see its purpose.  This song can reach the mainstream crowd a lot better than a political track by Vic Mensa or MF Doom could, but it makes the subject matter seem less important.  It also drags the second verse down a lot, as the 3 to 2 syllable flow really drains the song of its initial energy.

Overall, I did not want to be too critical on this song, as there are many parts of it I like and rap fans have taken a strong liking to it as shown by all the memes I’ve seen made from the music video.  The beat is great and sometimes the lyrics land a great punch packed with double meaning.  However, a lot of the lyrics are lacking in substance and feel too simplistic, and Gambino’s flow bogs down the song for me.  Basically, there were great intentions, but the execution could have been better.  If I had to, I would give this track a 2.5 out of 5.  Do you agree?

Thank you for reading my “This Is America” song review. If you liked this review, make sure to follow my website, Twitter, and Instagram, like this post, and be sure to check in to read my future reviews. Also, if you have something you want to see me review, tell me in the comments. Until then, keep on listening to good music! I know I will.

 

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4 thoughts on “Childish Gambino’s “This Is America” Song Review

  1. Interesting take on the song lyrics. I haven’t actually read anything from Donald Glover about the song, but I can’t help but guess that perhaps he intentionally made some of the lyrics vague and open to interpretation. I wrack my brain trying to figure out lyrics on many of the songs I review, only to sometimes have the artists tell me that they intentionally meant for them to be vague.

    Liked by 2 people

  2. You seem almost afraid of your conclusion. Lets be real. The song is trash. Sure its got a great music video, but if you ever just heard it and didn’t know who had made the song you wouldn’t think twice before turning that shit off. Seriously I can’t understand how anyone would like the song. He doesn’t day anything clever at all and the beat is subpar at best.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Really? If I was sounding scared, that’s my bad, because that wasn’t my intention, but I just didn’t want to get anyone super offended because 1) I do like this song in some respects and 2) I did not want anyone twisting my words to make me seem like a villian since this song does handle some serious subject matter in relation to modern times.

      Like

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