The New Emotional and Collaborative Record From Gorillaz
Gorillaz, the British virtual band made up of Damon Albarn and Jamie Hewlett, need no introduction, apart from the fact that their new album Humanz is unlike anything else in their discography and features a whole new slew of musicians and collaborations. If one was to assign a sound to this record it would be best be described as dark and dreamy dance pop. There is a sort of underlying dread to the music, whether it’s lyrically or musically the listener cannot help but feel some sort of unease.
Clocking in at twenty songs, Humanz is a marathon of music that lulls the listener into a dark and dance-filled trance. It begins with the twenty-four second song “Intro: I Switched My Robot Off,” where a deep voice slowly disappears beneath a newsreel and menacing sounds. The whole record is scattered with these spoken interludes that serve as a preface to the next handful of songs by speaking either literally or figuratively of what themes might be covered.
“Ascension,” which features Vince Staples, is a political track peppered with apocalyptic imagery like, “Them stars falling don’t chase ’em / the sky’s falling baby.” The third song off the album, “Strobelight,” is a departure from most of the other tracks, with its funk and heavy R&B vocals from Peven Everett. “Submission,” with Danny Brown and Kelela, manages to draw out the talents of Brown, Kelela, Albarn and Hewlett. Grace Jones appears on “Charger” for a trippy journey that fits in perfectly with both Jones’s and Gorillaz’ sound. With its catchy “a cha cha chas” and Jones’s signature, otherworldly vocals, one falls into a Gorillaz and Jones stupor. One of the best examples of showcasing an artist’s talents comes in on the song “Let Me Out,” with Pusha T and gospel and soul legend Mavis Staples. The song oozes with angst, but is enlivened by the vocals of Staples and Pusha T. “Hallelujah Money” features the strange, genius vocals of Benjamin Clementine. By far the artsiest song on the record, Clementine croons while angelic harmonies play behind him to pull the listener into a completely different world than any of the other songs on the album.
Other standouts include “Momentz,” featuring De La Soul, “She’s My Collar,” which sounds like earlier Gorlliaz, and “Andromeda,” with D.R.A.M., where heavy synth dominates making it sound like a 1980s throwback song. If one thing can be said of Humanz it is that it has no shortage of collaborations. Whether it’s Grace Jones, Mavis Staples, Kelela or Vince Staples, listeners will be more than satisfied with guest appearances on the album.
The last full-length record released by Gorillaz was in 2010 and, after listening to Humanz, it is understandable as to why it has been seven years since they have released an album. They took their time and let world events shape the message of the record. They brought in artists who would give life to these messages and, in the end, Humanz stands out as an emotional and political journey expressed by relevant and talented musicians.