The Experimental Beauty of Awaken, My Love!


Image via Amazon

Gus Reyna, Writer

Donald Glover’s third studio album, Awaken, My Love!, is a heartfelt project with very personal and authentic content. He experiments with a new genre, transitioning from rap to funky R&B with some hints of the soul as he describes the different aspects of this new chapter in his life.

The album is divided into two parts. The first half is more about the experiences of being black in America and Donald’s perspective on why some problems still aren’t solved, even if they seem to be. The second song on the album, “Have Some Love,” gives insight into how divided our species is. This is clear with lyrics such as “There’s a big wide world out there, I need to get in. We have got to stay together,” explaining that without unison we’re missing out on all the great things we could accomplish. Similarly, the following track, “Boogieman,” has a very funky and exaggerated feel to it. Donald describes racial fear by comparing the view of African-Americans to the Boogieman. He expresses how innocent people will get blamed for things due to the color of their skin and the unfair prejudice held against them. One of the lines, “But if he’s scared of me, how can we be free?” brings the issue of racial fear to the light, and shows that unless it’s rid of, they can never truly be free, despite the laws changing years prior. 

The second half of the album is directed toward Donald’s first son, Legend. He opens up about his fears and faults, while also warning Legend about the cruelties of the world. He gets very personal with the concluding track, “Stand Tall” and the song “Baby Boy.” In these songs, Donald speaks directly to Legend. For example, in “Stand Tall” he gives an image of what it was like when he was growing up in 1992 as he passes down words of encouragement from his parents to his own son. It’s apparent with lines, “I listened to what my father said; Keep all your dreams keep standing tall,” and, “There is more to you and me, there is more than they can see.” Donald is there for his son, supporting him like his parents did when he was young. He also touches on the fact that there is more than meets the eye with him and his family since they’re oftentimes brushed off due to their race. They are powerful, and they have the will to reach their dreams, the ones that they’ve chased since childhood. He then opens up about some of his potential regrets about “Baby Boy,” saying “I don’t wanna leave you, I don’t wanna deceive you. But oh, when mama cries from daddy’s lies, please don’t take him away”. This line indicates some of Donald’s intentions with his son, he wants to be in his life, but he fears a rocky relationship might jeopardize that. 

Another line in “Baby Boy” explains some of the worries he has for Legend as he grows older. The line states, “Though these bodies are not our own, walk tall little one, walk tall,” which is a reference to a book by Ta-Nehisi Coates about being black in America. Donald is telling Legend to be proud of who he is, even though he won’t have it the same as everyone else in the world. He worries for his son and wants to prepare him for the troubles he may encounter.

Donald also gives notice to Legend’s mother, Michelle White, throughout the album. The opening track, “Me and Your Mama,” contains very powerful instrumentals with a combination of beautiful vocal layers, creating a moment in time. This track has been described as some of Glover’s best work and is widely considered a fan favorite. It paints a picture of how she makes him feel and the struggles of their seemingly crumbling relationship. His most popular song, “Redbone,” is also about Michelle. “Redbone” is a very smooth and sensual track with paranoid lyrics. It describes Donald’s anxiety about his partner being unfaithful, but also his infatuation with her and his inability to end the relationship because of it. He’s so in love with her and stays in the relationship because of all the good she’s brought him, like their son, instead of focusing on both of their faults.

Awaken, My Love! as a whole was made for Donald’s son, Legend. Donald Glover opens up about the hardships he’s faced. Whether it’s racism or relationship struggles with the woman he loves, he does all that he can to prepare his son to go through hardships of his own. He encourages Legend to face the problems, keep his dreams, and stand tall.