Joshua Tree takes on a deep black after sundown. Imagine you're some 120 miles away from the smog of L.A., and the air smells fresh as the temperature drops. Pharos and the desert are packed end-to-end with dust. Blue lamplights lead the way into different clearings. There's a pond or two illuminated in the dusk and a general store where you can buy $4 Sour Patch Kids and like it. A large amphitheater sits outside, where showings of episodes 1-3 of Donald Glover's Atlanta take place. The show is brilliant and highlights the nuances of black life with ease

The album, though, is a thumping, genre-busting sound. It collides funk, soul, rock and punk into a million bits and rearranges them. Childish Gambino can sang, and the man held the crowd in anticipation the entire way. The lighting show was mastered by Wolf+Rothstein with cooperation from Microsoft — yeah, those folks. Gambino was up there being radical, one arm in the past of George Clinton and the Beach Boys and one arm in a hopeful future — one where the internet doesn't dominate every aspect of our lives. Ironic (even though there was technically no irony allowed) that he should shun the web after embracing it so thoroughly before

But how will it be received once it's out? We're not so sure. Up there, under that dome, the album sounded incredible even though we couldn't hear a word he was saying. In the light of day, the critics and the fans might have a few questions

The backlash

childish gambino atlanta
Photo: Giphy
Gambino went full Earth, Wind and Fire on this one. He sings throughout — and not just on one or two tracks. We're talking full-on singing, with a full band behind him. How will people handle that? "3005" saw him do a bit of that, but his voice is more robust than ever. I saw him stand up there and deliver. He used his voice like an instrument instead of just a prop. People might say it's too much. They might call him out for co-opting a time of music that, while his legacy, is not the future. We can see criticisms of his theatrics based on who he's presented himself as in the past

The raves

Photo: Giphy
Or, the project could grab raves for its back-to-the-future inventiveness. It rides a wave as much led by Grace Jones as Beyoncé. The production, if anything like the concert, is lush and jive. The songs are disparate looks at how black music expresses itself in different genres. It's the opposite of Frank Ocean's Blonde, which is quiet. Pharos is expansive, as though he was trying to jam in every last thing he could. Let's hope the world lets Childish Gambino be great

No reaction at all

Photo: Giphy
It could come and go without anyone paying any real attention to it all. We all focus on Atlanta, letting Gambino's concept album blow in the wind. No one deals with the work on its merits, instead crafting an opinion on it based on our hypothetical knowledge of him and his music. Then, it leaves the news cycle completely, giving way to another record people find more digestible and/or great. This would be the real tragedy, because the project seems to be one that at least needs to find an ear somewhere

What do you anticipate will happen with Gambino's Pharos? Let us know in the comments below!

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