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Hear Me Out: Childish Gambino, "Sober"

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Childish Gambino’s new single may be labeled as a rough cut, but “Sober” may actually be one of his smoothest tunes to date, although that may not be an entirely good thing. The actor-turned-rapper seems to have introduced an unfamiliar skill into his already varied repertoire: singing. On his new track, Gambino breathily croons over an effervescent melody and relaxed, feedback-y beat to culminate in a bass drop and a spacey, drifting outro.

While the soulful stylings of Gambino are far from unpleasant, the lyrics are generic and uninspired. On “Sober,” Gambino compares a past relationship to a drug-induced euphoria using only the tritest of terms. He sings, “If you just give me some time, I can open up your mind. If you le-le-let it shine, you can free-ee-ee your mind.” Gone are Gambino’s characteristic rhymes: clever ones, full of unabashedly inappropriate references (e.g. “Human Centipede” and Casey Anthony), delivered sometimes with anger, sometimes as a boast, but always with a touch of impassioned hysteria. Gambino as a singer, not a rapper, may be an idea with some potential, but his performance on “Sober” is not enough to distract from what might have been.

Gambino recently revealed that his upcoming mixtape “STN MTN / KAUAI” would be a double album, with the first single—“Sober”—being taken from the “KAUAI” side. However, although “Sober” is the first single, it may not serve as a good litmus test for the new album as a whole. A double album leaves plenty of room for Gambino to rap or sing or surprise us anew.

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“STN MTN / KAUAI” has no release date but is out later this year.

—Staff writer Lulu H. Kirk can be reached at lulu.kirk@thecrimson.com.

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