2018 is the year of Donald Glover if Saturday Night Live, FX, YouTube, and now Billboard are any indication. The multitasking musician just scored his first No. 1 debut on the Billboard Hot 100 with “This Is America.” The infectiously incongruous song by Glover’s alter ego Childish Gambino vacillates between plucky guitar strains and booming, bassy beats. It’s a melodic meditation on the African diaspora and, like Glover’s work on Atlanta, an examination of the absolute shit show facing down modern black Americans. The song’s provocative music video, featuring Jim Crow imagery, gun violence, and Hiro Murai’s beloved film grain, blew up the internet when it debuted May 6.
The artistic video announcing “This Is America” undoubtedly played a part in the song’s meteoric popularity, but this is a big musical achievement for Glover/Gambino on its own. The performer has never even broken the Hot 100’s Top 10 before—the closest he got was when “Redbone” hit No. 12 last August—so a No. 1 debut is somewhat unprecedented.* At least, it would be unprecedented if we weren’t in the midst of a Glover Renaissance.
Correction, May 14, 2018: This post originally misstated that “Redbone” debuted at No. 12 on the Hot 100. It peaked at that position.