Foreign Gists

Behind the Mic: Childish Gambino ‘Heartbeat’


(Credit: Alamy/Hip Hop Hero)

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Childish Gambino (real name Donald Glover) is a seriously talented individual who is so versatile he can do just about anything. He can sing, rap, produce, act and even perform comedy. With that being said, nowadays, he is mostly acclaimed for his acting and music but more so for the latter. 

Glover has always used his music as a way to begin discourse, especially with regard to politics and race. Gambino explores a wide range of topics in his music, including African-American culture, politics and current affairs. Glover has never been one to hold his tongue, especially when it comes to his music and music videos. His art often challenges the status quo and artistic norms, and it is outstanding but sometimes controversial.

One of Glover’s most controversial pieces of art is his music video for 2018 single ‘This Is America’ which won him a Grammy award for ‘Best Music Video’. Some have dubbed it a protest song, while others regard it as an offensive attack on America. It was polarising, but at the same time, began discourse around race, religion, gun laws and more. So Glover is truly talented in his craft.

Although people are always raving about Glover’s more recent material sometimes its important to take a look back at an artist’s roots. One of Glover’s seminal tracks as Childish Gambino was ‘Heartbeat’ the second single from his debut studio album, Camp released in 2011. 

‘Heartbeat’ was written and produced by Gambino with help from Swedish producer Ludwig Göransson. Gambino met Göransson while working on the television comedy Community. Gambino was playing the main character of Troy Barnes while Göransson was curating and composing music for the show. This is how the collaboration began.

Is a fusion of genres and can’t be labelled. However, if one were to describe it, they may call it an electro-ballad combo. The song’s main melodic element is progression pianos drenched in copious amounts of reverb. However, the softly played melody is underlaid by a very clean, hard-hitting drum that cuts straight through. The song also features a razor-sharp synthesizer that is distorted to an unlawful extent. The whole track is edgy yet soft.  

Gambino both raps and sings on the track, providing the “edgy” with the bars and the “soft” with his smooth vocals on the chorus. The lyrics of ‘Heartbeat’ address a breakup. The track also addresses themes around infidelity, drug abuse and sex. Genius describes the track as a “song about The One, and not being able to have or be with her. It expresses the complicated emotions that can occur when you’re sleeping with girls you don’t love and are still messing around with the ones you do.” 

Although there are plenty of songs about love out there, even in his early tracks Gambino was showing that he thinks outside the box by his fusion of contrasting elements to communicate the ups and downs of being in a relationship. As a truly unique, must-hear track, you can watch the music video for ‘Heartbeat’ below.