By Isabella Bullock ’19
Donald Glover, or Childish Gambino, recently came out with a new song titled “This is America.” Many elements of the song, from lyrics to symbols in the music video, are causing controversy throughout the country. The song addresses with racism, police brutality, the media and many other contentious topics in a subtle way.
“He uses symbolism in some areas,” Rohan Parmar ’20 said. “The video is trying to show something clearly about America.”
The music video takes place in what seems like an abandoned warehouse or garage, with Glover dancing in an odd way. He suddenly picks up a gun and shoots a man with a bag over his face, who was shown shortly before the audience. According to The Washington Post, “His stance while holding the weapon mimics that of the minstrel character Jim Crow, the origin of the term used to describe pre-Civil rights-era segregation laws,” which sets the tone in the start of the video.
“The video was really political and that he was really trying to push a message,” Julianna Raho ’19 said.
Throughout the entire video, Glover appears to be moving and dancing, but many events are happening behind him that are difficult to see. This seems to be the theme of the video; the fact that people are blinded by new trends right in front of them that it is hard to pay attention to the importance hidden in the background.
In the video, Glover is seen engaging in many popular dances with a group of people, yet in the background people are running from the police and fighting each other. While these chaotic events are taking place, they are difficult to fully discern, as the viewers’ eyes are drawn to Glover. Glover uses statements such as, “I’m so pretty” and “watch me move” in order to show how distracted the public is by these irrelevant and unimportant topics that are brought to attention by the media.
Glover also includes gestures towards recent high-profile events that have taken place over the past few years. For example, he memorializes the Parkland shooting by pausing for 17 seconds towards the end of the video for the 17 victims. “I think it was really cool that he had a tribute to one of the school shootings,” Lizzy Tonsberg ’19 said.
Another potentially shocking scene in the video occurred when a choir is seen singing, and Glover shoots them all dead. This symbolized the shooting that occurred at the Sutherland Springs church. After this scene, he sings the famous line, “this is America,” to show how this is now how this country is being seen.
It is also significant that Glover chose this church shooting and not others. This could be because Glover talks of the issues black men go through in America throughout the song, but it could also be the fact that America was founded on Christian ideals, and the shooting of the church represented how most of those ideals no longer exist. It shows that this country is no longer affiliated with a church, and is so far away from it that there are people who hate it and kill those who belong to it.
Glover went head first into political and controversial issues, which got people talking. “He’s definitely a representative of the media and minorities,” Tonsberg said.
Glover states in the song “Hunnid bands, hunnid bands, hunnid bands (hunnid bands). Contraband, contraband, contraband (contraband),” which some interpret to be the ignorance of popular artists today. He comments how many artists speak of their own successes and meaningless ideals, and utilize their fame to entertain as opposed to educate their audience. According to Genius, a website that analyses lyrics, “This could be a reference to the popular but often-maligned wave of young rappers.”
Though Glover refuses to explain the song, there have been many interpretations. Overall, Glover has told something with this song that many artists don’t regularly do, and has demonstrated he is more that an entertainer. He wants to bring awareness to ideas he feels strongly about with the power he has.