HomeMusicSong of the Week: Childish Gambino Returns with the Candy-Coated

Song of the Week: Childish Gambino Returns with the Candy-Coated

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Song of the Week delves into the newest songs we just can’t get out of our heads. Find these tracks and more on our Spotify Top Songs playlist, and for our favorite new songs from emerging artists, check out our Spotify New Sounds playlist. This week, Childish Gambino returns with the Swarm EP and “Sticky.”

It’s rare that such a disarming song can conjure such a threatening aura — and yet, that’s exactly what KIRBY and Childish Gambino have achieved on “Sticky.” The song arrives under the name of fictional pop star Ni’jah, the central figure of Donald Glover’s new Prime Video series, Swarm. The newly-released Swarm EP is spearheaded by pop songwriter KIRBY, whose credits include work with Kanye West, Ariana Grande, and Beyoncé.

The high point of the Swarm EP arrives in its final track, “Sticky.” Built on an irresistible hook that feels lifted from a fictional children’s nursery rhyme, the song blooms with brightness. A banjo plucks out an arpeggio beneath Childish Gambino and KIRBY’s croons as a lush harp drifts alongside — an idyllic display at odds with the darkness swimming beneath.

Swarm follows one of Ni’jah’s most devoted fans as she becomes increasingly deranged to the point where she’s killing off anyone who doesn’t agree with her idol’s pop star dominance. Though there are some obvious figures being satirized in Ni’jah — Beyoncé and Taylor Swift are the easiest comparisons — “Sticky” and the rest of the Swarm EP isn’t sonically aligned with either of those artists. Instead, it’s closer to the insular funk and cinematic R&B found in Childish Gambino’s most recent projects.

“Sticky” thrives in the maniacal lyrical perspective and subtle sonic chaos. Glover’s expressive falsetto warns the listener, “I’ll come and find you/ Stay on track,” a line as eerie as it is fun. When the second chorus arrives, you can faintly hear a choir of childlike voices shrieking behind the hook, and when Glover cries, “Look at the mess we made,” it conjures an army of maniacal stans with sharp, sinister smiles.

As Swarm’s final track, “Sticky” provides a sense of ultimate fate — there’s no choice but to surrender to the chaos. KIRBY and Childish Gambino have set a high bar, not just for their fictional pop star’s enigmatic songs, but for combining horror and pop. You may not survive against Swarm‘s deranged protagonist Dre, so… stan Ni’jah!

— Paolo Ragusa
Associate Editor


Madlib, Meyhem Lauren, and DJ Muggs — “Wild Salmon”

“Life is a motherfucking barbecue,” Meyhem Lauren says to close out “Wild Salmon,” the groovy new track from his collaborative album with Madlib and DJ Muggs, Champagne for Breakfast. Sometimes the coals are too hot, Lauren suggests, and sometimes you get burned, but as long as you’ve got friends and family you’ll be all right. He also raps about a pit bull named “Guicci” who “eats better than your mother,” and in fact, the only person eating better might be Meyhem Lauren, who is feasting on beats by two of the greatest to ever do it. — Wren Graves

Bella White — “Flowers on My Bedside”

Bluegrass and folk seem dually suited to tackle the feelins of loneliness that come with change. On “Flowers on My Bedside,” Canadian-born country singer Bella White bends the genres to her will, producing a fresh sound exploring all-too-familiar melancholia. Here, her lilting singing reflects the courage that builds and quickly dissipates in the face of confronting an ex-lover, as the gentle acoustic guitar tiptoes through the wreckage. Honest and grand, “Flowers on My Bedside” elevates the familiar folk song form, showcasing White’s mastery of simplicity. — Maura Fallon

Stolen Jars — “Won’t Stay Gone Forever”

Your daily dose of broken beauty comes courtesy of Brooklyn band Stolen Jars. “On the day you died/ I thought I heard you come back home,” vocalist Cody Fitzgerald sings, before joining Sarah Coffey on the longing hook, “Won’t stay gone forever.” Synthlines wobble underneath, while the twin voices swell with growing emotions, layering on new harmonies and countermelodies until the song and listener are ready to burst. — W.G.

LA Priest – “It’s You”

The first single off LA Priest’s upcoming third album Fase Luna, out May 5th, is the joyously funky “It’s You,” and it’s great to have the psych-pop artist back in the mix again. He certainly has an affinity for crisp, impeccably tight sounds, shown in his clean-cut guitar work, traveling basslines, and punchy percussion. His warm baritone is emphasized more on “It’s You,” striking a vocal tone that feels reminiscent of both Mac DeMarco and Perfume Genius. It’s a wavy, laid-back track, occasionally offset by a delightful vocal flip or a guitar purposely wading out of tune, and it’s welcome return to what LA Priest does best. — P.R.

Friko — “Crimson to Chrome”

The trio of frontman Niko Kapetan, drummer Bailey Minzenberger, and bassist Luke Stamos are carrying on the great Chicago musical tradition of unpretentious fun. Friko toggle between loud and quiet, thoughtful and self-deprecating, while never expressing anything less than the unbridled joy of noise. “I’m sitting here writing the same sad song/ With the cogs on fire/ Spinning on and on,” Kapetan sings, as the rhythm section builds, stutters, and comes roaring back. With youthful exuberance and veteran chops, few bands are building to such furious crescendos. — W.G.

Flycatcher — “Rust”

Active since 2017, indie rockers Flycatcher have found a new gear by tapping into a different kind of emotion: rage. “I had a really weird experience that left me pretty angry and confused and I wasn’t sure how to channel it,” vocalist Greg Pease said in a statement. “I imagined writing something fairly intense but I had no idea how far we could take it.” The results interpret Turnstile’s wall of sound hardcore through Silent Alarm-era Bloc Party, hinting at an awesome new era for the band. — W.G.

Alice Phoebe Lou — “Shelter”

As “Shelter” opens, the lead guitar goes up, the rhythm guitar goes down, and Alice Phoebe Lou goes forward to her next phase of artistry. The lead single of a soon-to-be-announced album finds the cosmopolitan songwriter teasing out the tension between selflessness and self-protection, fresh air and shelter. She sings of “picking flowers,” and urges, “Open the door and let the air in,” before turning inwards. “Gonna take shelter/ Gonna run for cover,” she decides, ending on darker note that belies the sunny guitars: “I’m just gonna have to look out for myself.” — W.G.

BLK ODYSSY and Bootsy Collins — “Honeysuckle Neckbone”

There’s something special in the collaboration of the old and new guard. With “Honeysuckle Neckbone,” the latest track from BLK ODYSSY featuring the legendary Bootsy Collins, the magic is no different, as the pair come together on the edge of funk and rap to dance the listener along the precipice. It’s the musical equivalent of swimming in the waves — with the floating baseline, the melodic background vocals washing over you, and the subtly driving force of BLK ODYSSY’s verses, it’s best to lay back and let the song carry you wherever it wants to go. — M.F.

Island of Love — “Fed Rock”

Island of Love are bringing back two great rock pastimes: guitar pyrotechnics and shit-talking. The first band signed to Third Man Records London wrote “Fed Rock” about some of their rivals on the music scene, with explosive results. “They all sound the same, I don’t know how they get away,” co-vocalist Linus Munch sings, “They all have shit names.” Without good music to back it up, it would all be so much empty words, but the verses and chorus rips, and at the bridge, Island of Love let their eloquent guitars do the talking. — W.G.

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