That’s what I said after watching Childish Gambino’s new music video: This Is America.
I first listened to the song on Spotify, and honestly, I thought it was just ok. Unfortunately, I believe it’s not meant to be heard that way; it’s only complete when listened to while watching the video.
Taken together, This Is America is a critique of our social and political environments. The lyrics in the song contrast wildly with the urgency felt after the depictions of violence and chaos. In the song, the lyrics are represented as being sung by us. We are Childish Gambino as he sings, dances and parties in a world falling apart.
However, the lyrics are so focused on nothing but adlibs and materialism that it becomes apparent we aren’t using music only for a chance to catch our breath, but we are avoiding reality, passively becoming part of the problem.
Furthermore, the video only has two images of innocence and refuge: the first is of the man who plays the guitar when you first hear it, and the second is of the choir as the camera pans over them. In both scenes, they are shot in cold blood, then followed by the refrain: This is America.
Childish Gambino is telling America that it doesn’t allow innocence and knowledge, man and nature to live in harmony. * In its place, a capitalistic message is offered as comfort and justification: get your money.
I believe This Is America is a frustration with this culture. It pushes us into one way of being, disallowing us to express ourselves in different ways. Per the video, America is about survival, and we cannot be anything other than violent and greedy.
Sadly, Gambino cannot save us. The end of the video shows him running from either 1) the mob of people chasing him or 2) they are all running from an unseen threat. As you can see, Gambino leaves us in the dark as to what brought us to the current state we are in. However, we do know what we are, and if we don’t like what we see in the mirror, the chaos and violence surrounding us, then it’s time to cut the adlibs off, and extend your hand to your neighbor.
Childish Gambino is not a rapper, or an artist I know well, but I look forward to seeing and hearing what he fuses into his next, and last album.