Donald Glover has done more this month than most of us will accomplish all year. The 35-year-old is still fresh off his Coachella headlining performance. This past weekend he performed at D.C.’s Broccoli City festival and dropped a new adidas sneaker line. And two weeks ago he released his new film Guava Island, which co-stars Rihanna.
Despite all those accolades, his biggest move came from his partnership with Google. On Friday, he launched a new AR app called “Pharos” on Android. From Variety:
“The app allows users to open up an AR portal in their living room (or where ever else they happen to be), and then step into the outer space world of “Pharos.” Once in space, they can unlock several elements of the song with the help of some mystical dancers, until it is finally time for a musical lift-off.
What sets the AR experience apart from other AR audio apps is that it comes with a multi-player option, giving multiple users a chance to enter the experience together.”
This is noteworthy for several reasons. First, the Pharos app has exclusive songs that have only been heard by Gambino’s closest fans. Last fall, an incomplete version of his song “Algorhythm” was sent to those who attended past concerts. The song has since been performed at recent concerts and is now available on the app. It is not available on streaming services. The app helps Gambino track and better understand who his fans are (which has been a theme in this month’s Trapital articles on Nipsey Hussle and Beyonce).
Second, the multi-player option builds community. The Atlanta star occupies a unique space in the entertainment landscape. The app’s users are predominantly fans of Glover’s music, but his reach across TV and film attracts others. This bond should help Gambino down the road.
The AR app brings users to outer space, which is very on-brand. Gambino is one year removed from playing Lando Calrissian in the Star Wars Solo movie. He’s a few years removed from a brief but critical role in The Martian. And he’s almost twenty years removed from wearing a Star Wars t-shirt on high school picture day. His persona aligns with Google’s desire to push the boundaries of technology.
But those of us with iPhones will have to wait. The Google partnership means that the Android folks will continue to get first dibs.
Continuation is an important element of Donald Glover’s brand. Guava Island was essentially an opportunity for Gambino to repurpose his music and dance moves from “This Is America” and “Summertime Magic.” The adidas sneaker rollout campaign was full of minute-long videos where Mo’Nique calls out familiar attributes about Donald Glover’s identity.
For all the praise Beyonce has received lately for repurposing her content with Homecoming, Glover has low key done the same. Ironically, both are co-starring in this year’s remake of The Lion King. Given how both understand the value of documentation and repurposing content, expect the Disney remake and its soundtrack to follow that same trend.