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Childish Gambino's 'This Is America' delivers provoking message

News Desk

The Jakarta Post

-  /  Wed, May 9, 2018  /  07:12 am

Musician, actor, writer and director Donald Glover, who goes by the stage name Childish Gambino, recently released a music video for his track “This Is America”.

The video was viewed more than 10 million times in the first 24 hours after its release. Currently, it has 33 million views.

In the four-minute video, a shirtless Gambino can be seen dancing to trap music through an empty warehouse with uniformed dancers, with riots seen in the background. Depicting a scene in which a person and a choir are shot, imagery that evokes the Charleston church mass shooting in 2015, the video has been seen as Gambino’s attempt to address gun violence and racism in America.

People have also pointed out the symbols of Jim Crow, the figure of Death on a horse, modest cars that were produced in the 1980s and 1990s, people filming acts of violence with cell phones and a scene where Gambino runs from a mob in a dark hallway, almost like a scene from the horror film Get Out (2017), which deals with racial tensions in the United States.

The video is said to “hold ugly truths”, and has been described as “powerful” and “uncomfortable but necessary”.

The video has been widely dissected by the media, who have offered differing interpretations of the layered meanings in the Hiro Murai-directed work.  

NPR Music hip-hop journalist Rodney Carmichael said, "The South African melodies suddenly give way to this really dark Southern American trap music. The rest of the video is this barrage of symbolism and chaos."

The Guardian pointed out how Gambino uses grotesque smiles and exaggerated poses. And how Gambino and the dancers mask the riots happening behind them by doing viral dances. 

The New Yorker said, “The truth is that this video, and what it suggests about its artist, is very difficult.”

The Washington Post made a short video, identifying the symbolism in “This Is America” and how Gambino and the dancers continued to dance after committing or watching acts of violence. “It could be commentary on how America ignores violence altogether, or moves on too quickly”, adding , “It’s important to note what’s happening behind the dancers”.

Justin Simien, creator of the Dear White People film and series, wrote a thread of tweets, saying that Glover “leverages a phenomenal tv appearance, series, album, pick one to introduce a narrative into pop”.

Fellow musicians also praised the video, including Erykah Badu, Janelle Monáe, Trent Reznor and Lady Gaga. 

Glover can soon be seen in the movie Solo: A Star Wars Story. Earlier this year, he won a Grammy Award for Best Traditional R&B Performance for his song “Redbone”, from the album Awaken, My Love! (2016). His show, Atlanta, won the 2017 Golden Globe Award for Best Television Series, while he was also awarded Best Actor in a Television Series, Musical or Comedy. (wng)

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