WXTJ Writes! By Mary Hall: “Does Gambino’s Remastered Album Really Shine Brighter?”

I first started listening to Childish Gambino at an age younger than I’d like to admit (but I still will, I was 11) and I had absolutely no business listening to his music (especially Camp and Because the Internet), but I will forever be grateful that I did. I would go back to listen to Camp (and still do) on my drives home when I’m feeling extra nostalgic, especially after my first heartbreak. I remember listening to “I. The Worst Guys” in my best friend’s living room in the 8th grade. I tried to teach myself “Sober” on piano. I downloaded every single one of his mixtapes onto my Apple Music before I made the switch to Spotify. I remember falling in love with a guy in high school (from the aforementioned heartbreak) that had a profile picture of the Awaken, My Love! cover. I got lyrics to “Stand Tall” tattooed on my ribs in my grandparents’ handwriting. I did a project in my first year on “I. Flight of the Navigator” and presented it less than an hour before testing positive for COVID-19 for the first time. My very first WXTJ Writes article was a brief overview of the way his music has shifted over the course of 10 years. My current boyfriend would play 3.15.20 for me when I’d get overstimulated after a Costco run. I’ve loved and listened to Childish Gambino/Donald Glover’s music (among his other entertainment ventures) for over 10 years now. 3.15.20 was one of my absolute favorite projects by him. So, when I took a deep dive into his most recent album, Atavista, the finalized version of 3.15.20, I was really looking forward to the remasters of some of my favorite songs and the finalized versions of songs that have been leaked on YouTube for years. What I came out with was a combination of excitement, euphoria, but also a little bit of disappointment at some of the changes made to the album. I listened to the original album, which is still available on Glover’s YouTube despite being removed from streaming, and compared it to its “finalized” counterpart. Let’s get into it.

DISCLAIMER: I will be using “Gambino” and “Glover” interchangeably throughout this article, though they are both referring to Childish Gambino as the stage name and Donald Glover as the artist.

Glover’s tweet announcing the drop of Atavista on May 13th, 2024.

The Fallen Songs

We lost a few of my favorite songs in this remaster, but also some songs that didn’t need to be on the album at all. We lost the opener of “0.00”, which was eventually replaced by “Atavista,” and I truly believe that both openers are really strong, so I’m happy either way on that front. A major loss was “32.22” (known among the fanbase as “Warlords”), which I believed was a really fun and funky song that really helps showcase the African Diasporic roots of his music and this album in particular. I saw a fan describe it as “beautifully chaotic, and I could not agree more, so seeing that it didn’t make the final cut was a major blow. The one song I was happy to not see on the final version was “42.26” aka “Feels Like Summer.” Now, don’t get me wrong, I love “Feels Like Summer” even though it is incredibly overplayed and I still hear it in Old Navy when I go shopping with my mom almost 6 years after its release. But that’s the big thing about it, it is overplayed and was already overplayed when Gambino decided to re-release it with 3.15.20. Releasing it a third time would’ve simply been a bad move, and I’m glad it’s staying to the confines of the Summer Pack for now (if 3.15.20 never comes back to streaming services, that is.)

“Atavista” (NEW, Replaced “0.00”)

The title track, “Atavista,” was very different from the initial “0.00” from the jump. It is an entirely different song, but going in I was expecting a similar sound. Instead of the 3 minutes of a bassy background met with reverbed robotic lead vocals, eerie backing vocals, occasional synths, and a light piano backing track that came with “0.00,” we received 3 minutes of a much more clear song. Coming out of the gate with synths that feel like they arrived from an 80s horror game and transitioning into a much more clear piano track with a simple drum kit as we hear the sultry voice that we’re so used to hearing from Gambino. Sprinkled with the occasional experimental percussion and slathering in more punchy synths towards the end, this is a fun opener that I feel provides a more broad overview of what we can expect from the album, versus “0.00” which didn’t let us know what we were getting into just yet.

“Algorhythm” (Remastered)

The biggest change between the demo version and this version of “Algorhythm” is in production. This is a song that feels a little bit cleaner, but frankly not by much. There’s the same scratchy, almost robotic vocals and calculated beat that feels like you’re moving in binary code until the chorus, where we get some humanity and see the artificial start to fall apart. It’s still very danceable and a testament to how much his music has changed over time. I’m sure that this is something that a trained production ear would be able to pick apart easily if there are any minor differences, but it feels like a similar song, if not the exact same song, to me.

“Time” (feat. Ariana Grande) (Remastered)

As I said with “Algorhythm,” the biggest change is in production. The vocals are so much crisper, especially Grande’s, which was a pleasant surprise. We still have the futuristic backing track which is reminiscent of an old arcade game and the beautiful blend of Gambino’s and Grande’s collaborative voices. It does feel slightly unbalanced at the beginning of the song, but blends much better by the end. I also miss the few little chords before “Psilocybae (Millennial Love)” to help transition it, but I just love a good transition. Other than that, though, there weren’t any huge changes to this version, except for a nice polishing, so I’m not against it.

Casey Frey under a grotesque face helmet as promotion for “Psilocybae (Millennial Love)”, previously Glover’s profile picture across social media platforms during the build up of Atavista.

“Psilocybae (Millennial Love)” (feat. 21 Savage, Ink, & Kadhja Bonet) (Remastered, formerly “12.38”)

Similar to “Algorhythm” and “Time,” a new mix is the biggest change to this version of “Psilocybae (Millennial Love).” This was one of my previous favorites, and given the very minor changes to this version, I believe it stays true to the original. It’s a fun, funky, and silly song that I feel like I don’t have to be too serious to sing, and it’s one of those songs where he’s telling a story, though it’s likely a very personal one. There’s some additional reverb which adds some cool effects to the psychedelic feel that Gambino is looking for with this song (as inferred through the title and lyrics), and the vocals sound more polished and crisp like in “Time.” Again, I have nothing to complain about or praise here, because it’s essentially the same song.

“To Be Hunted” (Remastered, formerly “19.10”)

This was the first remaster to really catch me off guard. This was probably my favorite (tied with “53.49”) from 3.15.20, so I was really looking forward to the remastered version of it when Gambino soft launched it back in March. At first listen, I was honestly disappointed by it. This is the first song with very major changes made to it from the previous version, with the biggest being the amount of reverb added to it. This song initially felt empty to me, probably because the reverb makes it feel like he’s singing into an empty room. I believe that it overshadows the instrumental, which was initially a nice, simplistic series of beats and synths, with a light guitar track towards the end. This isn’t to say that I don’t enjoy the new instrumental though. While the transition in and out of the song is lackluster compared to the version on 3.15.20, the instrumental by itself stays within its bounds as a very powerful backing track, even better than the untitled version. It errs away from the simplicity, keeping the most of the original beat while adding a series of swirling synths throughout, gradually making the beat more complex as the song goes on. The guitar section is far more prominent here, sandwiching a collection of almost sparkling keys before and after the final chorus. And anyone who knows me knows I love a good guitar section. It’s continued to grow on me the more I listen to it, but perhaps if we combined the previous vocals with the current instrumental, adding back the transitions, it would be my personal perfect version.

“Sweet Thang” (feat. Summer Walker) (Remastered, formerly “24.19”)

Other than the lackluster transition to the song on a full listen of the album, “Sweet Thang” is a song that I believe was greatly improved between 3.15.20 and Atavista. The minor changes in vocals and production made the song feel much fuller to me, while other fans may describe it as being overproduced. And, while I do miss Gambino’s sweet, sultry falsetto towards the bridge, Summer Walker’s feature simply makes me *ascend*. Her raw, soulful vocals add something new and appreciated to this version, and her harmonization with Gambino is just unmatched. I found myself begging for more. I’m also down horrendous for Summer Walker regardless, but that is beside the point. I’ve already mentioned it previously, but I do also feel like the transition between this song and “Little Foot Big Foot” was more abrupt due to the loss of “32.22” aka “Warlords.”

Still from the “Little Foot Big Foot” Music Video – Available on YouTube

“Little Foot Big Foot” (feat. Young Nudy) (Remastered, formerly “35.31”)

“Little Foot Big Foot” was a song that didn’t really change much from the demo to the finalized version, with the exception of one glaring difference: the Young Nudy feature. It’s not a bad verse whatsoever, but it feels like it came out of absolutely nowhere, especially on the first listen. I ended up watching the music video shortly after going to bed post-listen looking for answers, and ended up with more questions. I actually much prefer the studio version to the music video version because, frankly, a giant Young Nudy appearing to look over the little town with a random woman dancing seemed to take away from the masterful music video that Glover and Hiro Murai so carefully created. I loved the video prior to it, because it was reminiscent of an episode of Atlanta (likely because a lot of the team from Atlanta worked on it), but the entire Nudy portion of it was jarring and random to me. My only rationalization is that it could be comparing the music of the Harlem Renaissance/Cotton Club/Jim Crow era minstrelsy to modern rap and hip-hop through Nudy’s verse. Furthermore, it’s satirizing the fact that we often overlook the true meaning of songs when listening and instead focus on the beat, similar to Outkast’s “Hey Ya!” and his own “This is America.” It helps that Young Nudy himself is from Atlanta, which may be a nod to Glover’s show. I could write a whole nother article dissecting this music video. However, like I said, Nudy’s verse was not a bad verse, but I just felt like it was alien in this particular song, and I prefer the version on 3.15.20 for that specific reason. However, it was put on by Gambino for his own reasons, and I know that it was likely very intentional, even if the majority of folks don’t quite understand it yet.

“Why Go To The Party” (Remastered, formerly “39.28”)

Justice for “39.28” for real. The original song was just under 3 minutes long, and was subsequently cut down to a measly 41 seconds in the final version. The original version was pure poetry, and provided a calmer interlude without a flashy instrumental for an otherwise high energy and production heavy album. We’re missing the heartwrenching lyrics (my personal favorite being “Grief is a standing ocean, I never swam unless you did.”), the beautiful piano backing track, and the brutal honesty felt from Gambino’s words and outstanding falsetto that he was praised for in Awaken, My Love! This was the change that hurt the most, as it was reduced to a device that simply transitioned into “Human Sacrifice.” It could’ve still transitioned well (and arguably better) if the song was left alone. So I’m real salty about it.

“Human Sacrifice” (NEW, Replaced “42.26” AKA “Feels Like Summer”)

“Human Sacrifice” has probably been the most anticipated song from Gambino for the past 6-7 years since he played it during his tour for “Awaken, My Love!” and for good reason. If he had released singles for this album, I would not have been surprised if this was one of them, and I won’t be surprised if I hear it on my parents’ XM radio over the next few weeks or a movie soundtrack in the next few years. Dropping us into an ethereal landscape before whisking us into a world filled with heavy beats and passionate vocals and taking us back and forth between these worlds in a matter of just under 6 minutes. This song is ultimately carried by its percussion, both bodily and instrumental. While most of the other songs on this album are synth heavy, this really shines through the beats, drums, claps, and clicks. There are obviously still some synths evident in the instrumental, but they’re a garnish rather than the main dish. I also feel like this is a good replacement for “32.22” in terms of having a song that seeps into those African diasporic roots, and this very well could’ve been on the soundtrack for Guava Island if it was ready by then, but then we may not have gotten it on this album (I’m looking at you, “Saturday.”)

Childish Gambino/Donald Glover’s verified Genius profile picture, also previously used as promotion for his company “Gilga” and in Bose commercials.

“The Violence” (Remastered, formerly “47.48”)

This song also hasn’t changed much from the first version to the most recent version, with the exception of a more prominent backing track, which I noticed through a more scratchy guitar in the background about halfway through. There’s still the inclusion of Gambino’s softer lead vocals and ambient backing vocals with a guitar heavy backing track, and you can’t go wrong with the feature from his child. I cry at it every time. It’s the unfortunate reality of being a Black child, being soft and deserving softness and ease but being met with adultification and violence. The lyrics of the first half contrast the last 2 minutes or so with Glover’s child, showing how much love there is that needs to be cherished and taught to Black children from a young age, by both their parents and society as a whole. This song didn’t need much changing, as there was so much beauty within it in the first place, so I’m ultimately happy with it.

“Final Church” (Remastered, formerly “53.49”)

This is very appropriately titled “Final Church,” because Gambino does in fact TAKE YOU TO CHURCH! This was my first favorite song off of 3.15.20, to the point where I wanted to try to get lyrics from it tattooed (but ultimately just became an Instagram caption or two). I was admittedly scared for the changes that would come with this version, especially after how different “To Be Hunted” felt, but I think I like this version better! Maybe it’s having a title to it, but it definitely feels a lot more atmospheric, and I can feel the world that Gambino is trying to create similar to how he created one for “Psilocybae (Millennial Love).” I’ve always thought that Gambino made extremely strong openers and closers to his albums, and Atavista got the same treatment. This version’s vocals are very similar to the previous version, so where we see the biggest change here is where we see the biggest change for most of the other songs: in the instrumental. The background organ and synths feel a lot more prominent, as well as the choir singing the backing vocals. It’s a healthy combination of hip-hop, R&B, and gospel music. I can place myself in a church in Atlanta and see Donald Glover singing the solo while the organ and choir back him up and hype him up too. I can see the congregation dancing and doing the call and response that this song so rightfully begs for and deserves. This is a song for the ages.

The album cover art for Atavista.


Overall, the release of Atavista has resulted in some really mixed emotions for me personally. While this is considered to be a finalized version of 3.15.20 by Gambino himself, I believe it often falls short of the cohesiveness and fullness that the demo version seemed to offer. The transitions felt a lot more messy and abrupt this time around with the exception of the one from “Why Go To The Party” to “Human Sacrifice” (which is honestly kind of mid compared to the previous transitions between songs.) I did however enjoy the new features from artists from Atlanta (which I believe was entirely intentional on Gambino’s part), a good portion of the remastering, and the new additions to the final version. Maybe I’m resistant to change, and maybe it’ll grow on me the more I listen to it, similar to how I felt about the original 3.15.20. Listening to it in my car was miles better than on my headphones, which was miles better than listening to it on my AirPods from 2019 (they work after 5 years why do I need to upgrade?), so I don’t know! What I do know is that I’m gonna keep listening and that I am gonna see that sly mf live in August! I’ll see y’all again when he drops Bando Stone in the New World later this summer. For now, y’all have a great summer, and stream Atavista to compile your own opinions on it!

By Mary Hall (she/her), Co-Director of WXTJ (2023-2025) and host of “The LowDown” on the airwaves.

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