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14/10/2019 Communication Science news and articles

YouTube comments discussion: Childish Gambino’s This Is America

Breaking down Childish Gambino’s new This Is America song and video concept by looking through the comments section.


Childish Gambino’s most recent single This Is America is an overnight sensation that swerves the trending lists of countries around the world. It’s number one on iTunes’ top hip-hop/rap songs, and is also number one on the trending list of YouTube in the Netherlands. There weren’t any sneak peaks of the single’s audio prior to its release on May 5th, as the full-length song was released together with its official music video. It’s always interesting to read through people’s interpretations and reactions of the music video, whether those are valid ones or just plain commentary.  

The music video and some valid interpretations
The music video and song itself is a pleasurable listen and an entertaining watch at first glance. But then you start to get skeptical about what it all really means because you can’t help but pick up on a few disturbing scenes when juxtaposed with its upbeat and jittery music. It’s a beautiful mess that incorporates the meddling of media into politics and society in — as the song’s title suggest — America. The video depicts not a single white person which puts the focus on the black population of America, and they’re depicted both in the background and forefront of the video alongside Gambino himself. In the background, they are seen running around in mayhem while the forefront dancers express joyful movements levelling that of Gambino’s moves. However, this may have just been the frontier of the video as most of the background is blurred and mere movements of people are mostly depicted, not necessarily capturing the physical forms of these people. These subtle compositions have meaning that puts media in the spotlight.

According to Insider, we weren’t meant to direct our focus on Gambino but it’s actually the background that deserves our attention. This is because Gambino is a distraction, as is usually posed by media and entertainment, that blurs and distorts socio-political conditions to the foreground. Explicit references to gun violence and shootings as well as chaos in the setting are contrasted by Gambino’s fine dancing. This in itself is a media tool that fully represents the general idea of framing and its need for saliency, even though in this video’s case no omissions, such as the running chaos in the background, were paid.

The comments
When sorting the comments by popularity, an account commented, “The comments are all over the place lmao,” and it actually is. This is typical of any other viral videos, of course — ranging from individual analyses of what the song and visuals mean to appreciation comments and even made references to other pop cultures.

People shared their own interpretations of the video and that helped to clear out confusions among netizen. One person comments on its emphasis on Gambino, not as a representation of media and entertainment as a distraction, but as America itself.

While others focus on the sequence of events and how essentially America goes on from one thing to the other so quickly.

And yet not everyone praised the concept. One comment particularly criticised the music’s components as not being “a true song for a solid half of it”. It may well be the case when you’ve only listened to the music apart from watching the video. This may have been the reason why the music video was released together with the single in the first place.

Cover: EWatson92 / Final editing: Kyle Hassing

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