You can hide in plain sight.
Donald Glover was on “Community,” is in the second season of his own highly-lauded series “Atlanta” and has one of the longest running hits on the chart with “Redbone,” a cut from his THIRD Glassnote album and still…
Most people had no idea who he was.
Glover’s gonna be in the new “Star Wars” movie. He hosted SNL and was the musical guest too. But what cemented his fame, what captured the cultural zeitgeist, was his video for “This Is America.”
Wasn’t this paradigm supposed to be over? Isn’t MTV dead? Isn’t every creator criticizing the public for watching their masterpieces on phone screens?
Yes, but “This Is America” has garnered 41+ million YouTube views in four days.
And it sits atop the Spotify U.S. streaming chart with 2,270,990 daily streams, although its cume is only 4,851,816, and it’s only #7 on the Global chart, but…
This success is about the video.
I’m sure you’ve felt or heard the buzz. But if you pull up the video, it’s got all the elements the public is supposedly intolerant of, violence, racism… It’s the flipside of the Trump revolution. Honesty on the left. By someone with incredible purchase.
Funny how African-Americans are pushing the artistic envelope and whites are just complaining that someone moved their cheese.
And the press is fawning all over Glover. I haven’t seen this amount of intellectual analysis over a record since the sixties. It’s like out of white guilt the entire press corps is waking up to what it missed for decades, ditto Beyonce’s appearance at Coachella, only this time you didn’t have to be there, you can just stream the video again and again…
But not mindlessly.
The video makes you think. And feel. In an era where too much music has been relegated to the dustbin, seen as a second-class citizen, momentary entertainment, Glover is not so much challenging us than bopping us over the head, forcing us to evaluate our own viewpoints, either resonate in solidarity or turn it off.
HOW DID THIS HAPPEN?
History always repeats, just not in the way you think it does.
We were waiting for anthems to bubble up and dominate radio. But the anger is more tribal and less singable, and music lives online, not over the airwaves. You pull it up on demand, there are no gatekeepers, you get a vibe on the wind and you check it out.
That’s how hard it is to make it these days. Glover was playing to sold out theaters and still most people had no idea what he was doing. Let that be a lesson to the wannabes wondering why they’ve not had their chance.
You’ve got to make your own chance, over and over and over again.
And I’m not sure how long Glover’s moment lasts. Today some art is evanescent, and some lasts nearly forever. You can have an impact for a moment and be in the rearview mirror just that fast. But if you’re establishing a body of work as opposed to reaching for a momentary brass ring, you survive.
Watch the video, have your own opinion, but just know it’s not your father’s music business anymore.
Pop is dead. You know, that manufactured sound constructed by a team, refined for smoothness to the point where there’s no edge to catch you.
And rock became so formulaic as to be uninteresting.
The lesson is not to be calculated, not to play it safe, not to second-guess the audience. To dig down deep and tell your own truth. Over and over and over again. To experiment, take chances and then maybe…
The public will catch up with you.
As it just did with Donald Glover.