Donald Glover is one of the most trending celebrities across all facets of pop culture right now. Although Glover’s rise to stardom is anything but new, his rash of recent successes has thrust the artistic renaissance man back into the gleam of the public eye.
Donald Glover Is Relevance Incarnate
Atlanta: Robbin’ Season
On May 10, the second season of Glover’s television show, Atlanta, comes to a close. After Atlanta captivated viewers in 2017, the second season was eagerly awaited. Glover is credited as a creator, director, writer, and star of the show. He blends surreal imagery and situations with raw, gut-punching reality. The show follows Earn Marks, played by Glover, as he tries to pull himself up by his own bootstraps as the manager for Alfred “Paper Boi” Miles, his recently successful rapper cousin, played by Brian Tyree Henry.
Atlanta delivers laughs in the manner we have come to expect from Glover. He steps back and lets the show’s most ridiculous characters temper the somber moments, much in the same way Glover did quietly as a writer on 30 Rock. Bibby, a chatty barber portrayed flawlessly by Robert Powell, takes Al on a wild ride that includes a stop to steal lumber and eat left-over Zaxby’s from a construction site. Darius, who could not be played to the same effect by anyone but Lakeith Stanfield, appears now and again to deliver stoned philosophical bites and wedge himself into bizarre situations, some of which involve Glover. (Watch the episode, “Teddy Perkins.” You will not regret it. Make sure you read the credits.)
Glover crafted a masterpiece with this one and puts his talents as a director, writer, and actor on full display with almost every episode. His ability to weave narratives and develop characters that can evoke amusement and heartbreak with ease is stunning and draws in viewers episode after episode.
Saturday Night Live
Glover also appeared as the most recent host of the cable juggernaut Saturday Night Live. Although not every sketch hit, he delivered a handful of the more memorable and enjoyable performances throughout the night. In particular, the “Barbie Instagram” sketch sees Glover as an oddball social media intern at Mattel, hired to create captions for the popular children’s doll’s new Instagram. Garbed in a turtleneck and glasses, he deadpans a post-traumatic narrative for the sugary, cheerful toy. The sketch is a wash, but Glover’s performance is a bright spot.
Glover reminds us of his musical prowess throughout the show, both in sketches and in his appearance as the show’s musical guest under the artist name Childish Gambino. He lilts his way through his monologue, raps his feelings out in a Migos parody titled “Friendos,” croons out misplaced anger and jealousy in “80’s Music Video,” and debuts new music for the SNL audience.
“This Is America”
Glover, as Childish Gambino, released a new music video during his SNL appearance called “This Is America.” The song is Glover’s response to life in America for African-Americans, condemning police brutality, drug culture, and the lack of progressivism regarding quality of life. The video itself is rife with symbolism and matches the dark, surreal tone set by Atlanta‘s second season. Both the music video and a hefty chunk of Atlanta were directed by Hiro Murai.
The song and the video serve dual purposes. One, Glover delivers quality entertainment and reminds us once again that Childish Gambino is a wildly successful musical act for a reason. Two, Glover calls attention to entertainment as a platform for political activism, a notion at the forefront of the country’s mind on the heels of LeBron James‘ defiant response to a conservative talking head’s demand that he “shut up and dribble.” The video will come to be an object of academic scrutiny both as a performance piece and a political statement much in the same way that Beyoncé‘s Lemonade did after its release in 2016.
Solo: A Star Wars Story
Glover will also co-star in the upcoming Solo: A Star Wars Story as a young Lando Calrissian. His willingness to take on the mantle Billy Dee Williams bore in one of the most successful film franchises in history demonstrates how well Glover has established himself as one of the most successful artists of the 21st century. In trailers for the upcoming film, Glover’s undeniable charisma shines through as what will be one of the best parts of the movie. His charm and laidback ethos make him a perfect choice for the original owner of the Millenium Falcon. In a set of questionable casting choices, Glover was an absolutely golden casting selection.
Last Word On Donald Glover
There can be no last word on Donald Glover. Glover has proven that he is going to continue to evolve and spread his influence as an artist, a point he made extremely clear after uneasy public response to the new artistic direction of the Childish Gambino album Awaken, My Love! It is impossible and a disservice to define Glover or to restrict him to one genre, one form of entertainment and even this article cannot do him or his work justice.
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