On December 2nd, 2016, Childish Gambino released Awaken, My Love!—a funk-heavy follow-up to his 2013 album, Because The Internet. However, that isn’t the only highlight of the former Community star’s year. Awaken, My Love! is merely a cherry on top on what has been an incredible year for Donald Glover.
In February 2016, Because the Internet—known for “3005” and “Telegraph Ave”—reached gold certification by selling 500,000 copies. This marked the first time in Gambino’s career that he had achieved this honor.
Aside from album success, Childish Gambino added to his movie resume in 2016. In June, Glover was cast in a yet-to-be-determined role in “Spider-Man: Homecoming” and as a young Lando Calrissian in an untitled Han Solo Star Wars spin-off to be released in 2018. Hell yes.
In the same month that he was cast in “Spider-Man: Homecoming,” Gambino ended his year and a half long social media blackout by posting a link to download his mysterious Pharos Earth app. What followed was a tour in Southern California’s Joshua Tree National Park. The events were cell-phone free with attendees having to place their phones in a pouch with electromagnetic locks before entering. The shows were tribal-themed—complete with grass skirts and glow-in-the-dark paint. Those in attendance reported afterwards that the music played during the show—which served as a preview to Awaken, My Love!—was nothing like Because the Internet or Kauai.
In September, Childish Gambino began to regularly appear on television for the first time since Community in his own comedy-drama FX series, Atlanta. In the show, Glover plays Earnest Marks, a money-starved college dropout trying to provide for himself and his young daughter by managing his cousin’s rap career. The series has received rave reviews and award nominations; one, in particular, won Glover Best Actor in a Comedy Series at the 7th Critics’ Choice Television Awards since its debut. Two weeks after the series premiered, FX announced that the series would be renewed for a second season.
With Donald Glover’s presence in television and music during the year, fans awaited the release of his next album, Awaken, My Love!, and that demand showed after the album was made public in early December. Awaken, My Love! yielded over 40 million streams within its first week and charted #5 on the Billboard 200—the highest of any Childish Gambino album. Reviews have been mostly positive with some calling the album “[Gambino’s] most enjoyable project yet.”
Half a decade ago, Donald Glover’s foray into the world of music from acting was widely considered a joke. A 1.6/10 Pitchfork review of Camp is the best way to sum up that consensus. Since then, Glover has mastered both worlds and is arguably in a league of his own as a multi-dimensional performer.