by Ayanna Jacobs-El
I have loved the Gorillaz ever since I heard “Clint Eastwood” way back in the early 2000s. The unusual band’s music was intriguing and unlike anything I had heard before. For those of you that may have been living under a rock, the Gorillaz are a British virtual band created by musician and singer Damon Albarn and artist Jamie Hewlett in 1998. The group consists of 4 fictional animated band members: lead vocalist and keyboard player 2D, bass guitarist and vocalist Murdoc Niccals, guitarist, keyboard player, and vocalist Noodle, and drummer and percussionist Russel Hobbs. The band members do not represent any real musicians, but Albarn is a permanent musical contributor and his singing voice is associated with lead vocalist 2D. The songs released by the Gorillaz vary in genre and often feature various musicians, singers, and rappers.
The group has been on a musical hiatus since a falling out between Albarn and Hewlett in 2012, but the two have reconciled their differences since then. In the meantime, Gorillaz fans have been eagerly anticipating their next full-length release since Plastic Beach (2010) and The Fall (2011). Luckily, the wait won’t be much longer because the Gorillaz announced that the group’s 5th album called Humanz will be released on April 28th and a North American Tour will follow. For now, the Gorillaz have enticed us with 4 singles, that each feature a guest artist, to tease the upcoming release.
I started my musical journey by listening to “Andromeda” which features the vocals and ad-libbing of “CHA CHA’s” D.R.A.M. Out of the 4 singles, “Andromeda” seems to sound closer to the Gorillaz’s previous sound on Plastic Beach with prominent electronic drums, bright synths, and Albarn’s signature vocals. According to Albarn, the song is named after a nightclub in Colchester that played soul music in the 1980s. The ideas expressed in the lyrics are about the club being a place where people could find an escape from their day and socialize, dance, express themselves, and bond with others. Even though a club is generally known as a place to spend time drinking and flirting, the song pushes the message that love could also be found if a person can open their heart.
The track “Saturn Barz” featuring Jamaican Dancehall star Popcaan was my favorite out of the 4 singles. It features a gritty synth bass and a head-bobbing beat that utilizes industrial sounding samples. These two elements end up meshing perfectly with Popcaan’s awesome vocals. The song is even better when you view the “Saturn Barz (Spirit House)” interactive, virtual reality music video. The music video became the most viewed virtual reality video by amassing 3 million views in the first 48 hours of its release. The music video follows the group’s members through a haunted house with trippy and visually stunning animation.
My least favorite of the singles was “We Got the Power” featuring singer Jehnny Beth. The synth-heavy, 80s inspired track didn’t resonate with me. At times it was cheesy and although I liked the uplifting lyrics; the production and Beth’s vocal delivery didn’t draw me into this song.
“Ascension” featuring rapper Vince Staples is a really interesting track. This seemingly dance-oriented song actually speaks about some of the tumultuous events that have been going on in the world. The main hook in which Staples’s says, “The Sky is Falling” serves as symbolism for the world ending and he then raps about how, before the world ends, he would rather lust after a girl instead of repenting to gain ascension into heaven. I particularly liked the church choir singing “higher” in between Staples’s chorus rap. That particular choir effect reminded my of some of Outkast’s tracks like “B.O.B.”.
Overall, I like this new musical direction for the Gorillaz. I enjoy how each time the band releases new music it’s completely different from the last, but still just as interesting and pleasing to the ear. I am eagerly anticipating the release of Humanz, and maybe I’ll even get a chance to score a ticket to the upcoming tour.
WHAT DO YOU THINK OF THE NEW GORILLAZ SINGLES? WHICH WAS YOUR FAVORITE? LET US KNOW IN THE COMMENTS!