Last Sunday, for less than 24 hours, an album called Donald Glover Presents dropped on the actor/rapper/Atlanta creator/writer's website, available to listen to only in full, from front to back. It featured collaborations with Ariana Grande (with whom Glover has worked before, on the pop star's 2014 breakout album, My Everything) and rapper 21 Savage, and while mostly new, bundled in some previously-released singles, including "Algorhythm," "Warlords," and "Feels Like Summer."
Now it seems Glover is teasing... well, something, again. After scrubbing his website of the album stream on Sunday, he's replaced the homepage with a simple logo ("Donald Glover Presents") and a ticking timer, that counts down to midnight tomorrow (March 22). Music industry magazine Hits Daily Double cites sources who suggest the timer, when it runs out the clock, will hearken the proper, streamable arrival of the album, but knowing Glover's recent history when it comes to releases (to say nothing of taking his well-deserved time on projects), we might be in for a repeat of last Sunday for all we know.
What we do know is that Donald Glover's new one is easily one of the most anticipated albums of the year. Over the past half-decade, the multi-hyphenate has cemented himself as an urgent, exciting, necessary force in the worlds of TV, music, movies, and more. His hit FX series Atlanta has already notched two perfect seasons; a third is reportedly in the works, though it's already been two years since Robbin' Season, the show's second (reports suggest it'll return in early 2021).
It's not like Glover hasn't been busy in the meantime. Last summer, he took the lead as Simba (along Beyoncé's Nala) in Disney's wildly successful live-action reboot of The Lion King, which cracked the $1.5 billion mark in box office sales worldwide. Two years prior, he brought us his take on a young Lando Calrissian in Disney's Star Wars prequel, Solo, and in 2019, Glover teamed up with Amazon on an exclusive streaming mini-movie, Guava Island, which also starred Rihanna.
As a musician, Glover's last Childish Gambino album, 2016's "Awaken, My Love!", was an 11-song reset for him, the type of body of work that catapults a pop star from the Internet to the mainstream. It brought us the hit single "Redbone," which peaked at No. 12 on the Billboard Hot 100, and earned Grammy nominations for Record of the Year, Best R&B Song, and won the award for Best Traditional R&B Performance.
But the real cultural reset for Glover came in 2018, with the release of his earth-stopping "This Is America," an instant hit that tackled racism, gun violence, and other problems plaguing the country, with a history-making music video directed by Hiro Murai to boot. The song debuted at No. 1 on the Hot 100, and went on to snag Grammys for Record of the Year, Song of the Year, Best Rap/Sung Performance, and Best Music Video.
With whatever Donald Glover Presents ends up being—and if you listened to that stream last weekend, you know it's a jam-packed album that glimmers with hope and some truly slick production—it's coming at a deeply conflicted time for pop culture in the world. While some musicians are forging ahead with their releases in the wake of the global spread of COVID-19—like The Weeknd with his exceptional, chart-topping new album After Hours, which dropped yesterday—others (like Alicia Keys) are pushing their album release dates back weeks, if not months, to cope with an inability to promote them as we've grown accustomed to. There's no tours to be had in the immediate future; no morning or late show musical performances to be played the way our pop stars are used to playing them (a Zoom-only SNL is intriguing on paper alone). And fans can't even go to stores to pick up physical copies of an album right now. All that is to say: it makes sense to postpone a product you can't sell, no matter how much we might need it right now.
But certain artists don't need that traditional promo cycle to get their message across; Donald Glover certainly doesn't anymore, and hasn't for a while. If there's anyone to bet on during these uncertain times, it's him. He's one of a rare breed of musicians whose music speaks for itself. When Donald Glover Presents anything, you listen.
Glover's timer ends at midnight—stay tuned.