On the latest Saturday Night Live, Childish Gambino — the musical pseudonym for actor and Atlanta creator Donald Glover — released “This Is America,” a searing social critique of pop culture and the experience of being black in America today.
While the mesmerizing single-take video shows a theatrical Gambino dancing and singing enthusiastically while violence of all kinds takes place all around him, the lyrics act as an indictment of the very medium they’re in; music, after all, often serves as a respite and distraction from reality. The song opens with a light refrain from a gospel choir before Gambino begins in: “We just wanna party, party just for you.” But things quickly take a darker turn, both musically and lyrically, as he investigates just what that “party” really means, alluding to everything from police violence to racial stereotypes and social media obsession as components of the modern American experience. Rappers Young Thug, Quavo, Blocboy JB, Slim Jxmmi and 21 Savage also take turns featuring.
Glover’s last album was 2016’s Awaken, My Love!, and he was nominated for three Grammys, including Album of the Year. He took one home for single “Redbone.”
He has stated that his next musical project as Childish Gambino, his fourth album, will be his last.
Here are the full lyrics to “This Is America,” as documented by lyrics website Genius: