Last week Thomas Gane strapped on some cardboard goggles to road-test Donald Glover's latest project around 'Awaken, My Love!'
In 2016 Childish Gambino went from being a cult favourite to one of the most respected artists in the world. His TV series Atlanta was a critical and commercial success, his PHAROS festival out in the Joshua Tree desert was lauded as unique, and he released arguably the most acclaimed album of his career, ‘Awaken, My Love!’ In the last twelve months he’s also been cast as Lando Calrissian, Simba and won two Golden Globes, propelling Migos to their first number one in the process by shouting them out in his acceptance speech. When Donald Glover does something now people take notice.
As such, when House Of Vans announced an ‘Awaken, My Love!’ “VR Screening Party” earlier this month it generated quite a lot of buzz. The event was to celebrate the launch of the ‘Awaken, My Love!’ limited edition VR Vinyl, which had been announced months ago to general bemusement (VR Vinyl works how…?). Tickets were free, but balloted, and promised “world-first access to this hyper-immersive showcase” that included “the incredible 360° footage shot at [Childish Gambino’s] immersive PHAROS concerts last summer”.
This finally gave us an indication of what to expect from a VR Vinyl. PHAROS was how Donald Glover announced the return of Childish Gambino in June last year. Almost two years after all of his social media blacked out following the release of ‘STN MTN / Kauai’ Gambino returned with a single Tweet that linked to the PHAROS Earth app. The app opened to an animation of speeding through space with a mysterious timer counting down to what most presumed would be new music. A little over 24 hours later the timer reached zero and it was revealed to be a festival announcement.
The PHAROS Festival took place in the Joshua Tree desert in September. Phones were completely banned from the performance areas and ticket holders were instructed to wear blue, the “vibrancy colour”. Gambino used the opportunity to premiere the first of three episodes of Atlanta and the new music that would become ‘Awaken, My Love!’. Reviews were glowing, with Tyler Mitchell in The FADER calling it a chance to live “fully inside an artist’s idea of the world” and Nathan Slavik for Bundle.Media writing, “The future is now, and it looks exactly like Donald Glover.”