This is America: a Review

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Gugundeep Kaur, one of the nominees for Label’s Best Volunteer (Writing) award at the recent LSU Media Awards, has written us a review of Childish Gambino’s recent single …

After taking a hiatus in which he pursued other endeavours such as his award-winning show Atlanta, along with producing his new album, Donald Glover (who goes by the stage name Childish Gambino) is back with a new track accompanied by a very provocative music video. The music video has gathered millions of views and has been a talking point across social media for both its challenging nature and how truthfully it depicts America.

The song depicts an anarchical, dystopian representation of America in its current state of political unrest. The song begins with a melodic beat which descends into an aggressive hard-hitting beat with the repeated phrase “This is America”. Along with the various scenes of Glover shooting individuals, this makes for a difficult video.

The video is steeped in political references – for example, the radical shooting of the gospel choir alludes to the Charleston Church shooting, and the shooting of the man at the beginning and the frantic escape of Glover at the end ties to issues regarding police brutality in America. Moreover, whilst all this violence is going on there are dancers dressed as school children hinting at the numerous school shootings that are happening in America due to unchanging gun laws. Additionally, Glover is dancing in the manner of a Jim Crow caricature which alludes to the long standing history of systematic racism in America and how race relations have not improved greatly since the introduction of Jim Crow laws concerning segregation.

By connecting to recent atrocities through his provoking visuals, Gambino is showing the immediacy of issues of gun violence and police brutality. Only radical images such as these seem to gather media intention. Yet, the viewers’ eyes naturally drift towards the dancing in the foreground as opposed to the violent images in the background which links to how art is utilised solely for commercialism as opposed to political advancement.

Mass capitalism is driven by such consumer culture, particularly through the exploitation of African American art forms, but Glover is showing that dancing is merely covering the true violence and aggression that overwhelms America. But by presenting such difficult images, Glover is bringing issues ravaging American society – such as gun violence and police brutality – to the foreground of the shot, and American culture. The notion that art today is distracting Americans from the real issues at stake is an interesting one and bears lots of relevance to what attracts media and consumer attention.

The song makes its viewers hyper-aware of the social issues ravaging society under the rule of Trump. The popularity of such a violent and provocative video makes it evident that such issues need to be addressed now and only by radical representation are mass audiences made aware of the harsh realities of America.

Gugundeep Kaur

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About Author

After a year spent as Label's Head of Design, I'm back as News Editor whilst on my placement year. If there's anything at all you'd like to discuss or write about, email me: liamhopley@lsu.co.uk.

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