Through New Year’s on Creativity, we’ll be counting down the best work and ideas of the year in various categories: TV/Film/Branded Content, Print/Out of Home/Design/Experiential and Digital/Integrated/Social.
At number 4 in TV/Film, Childish Gambino aka Donald Glover and long-time filmic collaborator Hiro Murai created this brilliant work of protest art--the music video for the single “This Is America.” The film is a heady juxtaposition of playfulness (Glover’s dancing, choir members singing) and terror (there are graphic depictions of shootings at the hands of Glover himself). Altogether, it’s a thought-provoking fever dream that lays bare the injustices and seemingly inescapable gun violence that continue to plague our country and shape the black experience in America.
Warning: The video above contains images of extreme gun violence.
If they haven't already, someone is soon going to ask you "What do you think of 'This Is America'?" It's a song by Childish Gambino, aka Donald Glover, who hosted "Saturday Night Live" over the weekend, performed the song live on the show and then released the music video, above, on YouTube's Vevo. Though the YouTube post of his "This Is America" performance on the "SNL" YouTube channel has, as of this writing, fewer than 100,000 views, the official music video has racked up more than 17 million--and has become a major media obsession and cultural talking point.
The video features a dancing, singing Glover engaging in hyperviolence--he graphically shoots a man in the back of the head at point-blank range just 50 seconds into the video. (The violence gets even worse later.) This comes right after Glover has sung,
We just wanna party
Party just for you
We just want the money
Money just for you
I know you wanna party
Party just for me
The tone of the song and the video suddenly shifts as the chorus begins,
This is America
Don't catch you slippin' up
Don't catch you slippin' up
Look what I'm whippin' up
The video was directed by Toyko-born, LA-based Hiro Murai, who has helmed more than a dozen music videos over the years as well of episodes of Glover's FX series "Atlanta." The song's lyrics are available at Genius.
With its references to guns, police, fear, the black experience and more—well, this is indeed America. The conversation about the song and the video, though, has already gone global. For instance, in a post titled "Review: Childish Gambino's 'This Is America' is a revolution" on the website of Singapore-based street culture magazine Juice, Indran P writes,
Childish Gambino's new song, "This Is America", isn't a chill song. It doesn't even sound chill—it's not "Redbone" [Childish Gambino's 2016 hit]. This is not two years ago; this is the screaming, fiery, horrifying maw of the now in which we're chewed and crushed on repeat. This is a song you can't over-read because its extreme vision unpacks and lays everything bare for you.
More reviews and essays and think pieces are sure to follow—by the dozens, by the hundreds—in the media in the days and weeks to come, but meanwhile part of the "This Is America" phenomenon is the way that it's inspired countless people on social media to try to deconstruct an artwork, and unpack their own emotions, in real time. A sampling from Twitter:
And here's a tweetstorm worth reading in full: