Childish Gambino Makes His Triumphant Return with "This Is America," "Saturday"

Donald Glover debuted two new songs during May 5's SNL, his first since 2016

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Childish Gambino Makes His Triumphant Return with "This Is America," "Saturday"

Donald Glover did it all on Saturday night: He hosted SNL and performed on the show as Childish Gambino, debuting two new songs live (with intros from Daniel Kaluuya and Zoë Kravitz) and simultaneously sharing a music video for one of them, even appearing as Lando Calrissian in a Solo: A Star Wars Story TV spot during a commercial break. For now, we’ll focus on the obscenely talented multihyphenate’s new singles, starting with “This Is America,” released last night along with an instantly iconic video, directed by Atlanta’s Hiro Murai.

To say “This Is America” is a return to Childish Gambino’s rap roots would be a vast oversimplification, but it’s certainly a departure from the electrifying funk and soul of his Grammy-nominated third album, 2016’s Awaken, My Love! The song’s deceptively breezy intro gets a hole blown in it when Glover pulls a gun without warning and executes the guitarist, declaring, “This is America / Don’t catch you slippin’ up.” Good luck taking your eyes off Glover: Murai’s lens paints him as both hero and villain, his dance moves and facial expressions delighting us one moment, his murderous actions disturbing us the next. May is far too early to be crowning a music video of the year, but “This Is America” absolutely warrants that kind of talk.

“Saturday,” which Glover performed on SNL alongside Ludwig Göransson on guitar, is a very different story: “Saturday / All I wanna do is make you dance, girl,” he sings, delivering the exact kind of uplifting and lighthearted party jam that he so purposefully punctures in “This Is America.” The result sounds far closer to something off Awaken, My Love!, a reminder of Glover’s range and evolution as an artist.

The tragedy is, that evolution is what will spell the end of Childish Gambino. Glover announced during a show last summer, “I’ll see you for the last Gambino album,” later explaining why his fourth studio album would be his last: “Like I feel like there’s gotta be a reason to do things and I always had a reason to be punk,” Glover said. “I feel like the direction I would go with Childish Gambino wouldn’t be punk anymore. As much as ‘Redbone’ is a punk song because it’s a gospel song on the radio, I’m like there’s only so far you can go before you just are the radio.” He later told Variety, “I think endings are good because they force things to get better.”

Childish Gambino is most definitely going out with a big bang: He and his creative agency Wolf + Rothstein inked a deal with RCA in January, through which his last album will be released sometime this year. (Curiously, a press release notes that “This Is America” “is not the first official single from Childish Gambino’s upcoming album on Wolf + Rothstein/RCA Records.”) Earlier this week, Childish Gambino unveiled new tour dates with Vince Staples, following the first leg of his previously announced North American tour alongside Rae Sremmurd. His 19-city run kicks off in Atlanta on Sept. 6, wrapping in Nashville on Oct. 12.

Watch the “This Is America” video below (or stream the track via your service of choice here) and see Childish Gambino live-debut his new singles on SNL further down. Keep scrolling for a 2011 Gambino performance from the Paste Cloud, along with the artist’s tour slate.

Childish Gambino Tour Dates:

September
06 – Atlanta, Ga. @ Infinite Energy Arena $
08 – Chicago, Ill. @ United Center $
10 – Toronto, Ontario @ Air Canada Centre $
12 – Boston, Mass. @ TD Garden $
14 – New York, N.Y. @ Madison Square Garden $
15 – New York, N.Y. @ Madison Square Garden $
18 – Philadelphia, Pa. @ Wells Fargo Center $
19 – Washington, D.C. @ Capital One Arena $
22 – Houston, Texas @ Toyota Center $
23 – Dallas, Texas @ American Airlines Center $
26 – Inglewood, Calif. @ The Forum $
27 – Oakland, Calif. @ Oracle Arena $
29 – Seattle, Wash. @ Key Arena $
30 – Vancouver, British Columbia @ Rogers Arena $

October
02 – San Jose, Calif. @ SAP Center at San Jose ^
03 – Inglewood, Calif. @ The Forum ^
05 – Glendale, Ariz. @ Gila River Arena ^
09 – Denver, Colo. @ Pepsi Center ^
12 – Nashville, Tenn. @ Bridgestone Arena ^

($ – with Rae Sremmurd)
(^ – with Vince Staples)

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