Written By: Ethan Griggs
My Music: ethangriggsmusic.virb.com
“The sky’s fallin’ baby/Drop that ass ‘fo it crash”. This hook from Vince Staples on “Ascension”, the opening song from the new Gorillaz album, is a great thesis for the next seventy minutes of music. In an era stained with uncertainty, Damon Albarn and Jamie Hewlett are throwing a party to celebrate whatever life we have left. Featuring an onslaught of features from the mighty Grace Jones, the wacky Danny Brown, 70’s icon Carly Simon, and jumping all the way forward to modern punk with Jenny Beth from Savages, Humanz is an sprawling anthem that calls for unity and, of course, lots of dancing. Through it all, there’s plenty to be said by Albarn and his crew; the album essentially sounds like a giant remix of the group’s classic mega-hit “Feel Good Inc.” Besides the interludes, most of which are less than twenty seconds long, the only track that doesn’t feature another artist is “Busted and Blue”. The seven bonus tracks on the deluxe edition also have features.
One of the immediately noticeable traits of the album is just how much pop music has changed since their last release, 2010’s The Fall. The first true standout on the record is “Momentz”, featuring De La Soul – although it sounds less like their famous brand of sunshiny hip-hop of the 80’s and more like a modern inflection of trap owed to new groups like Migos and A$AP Mob. The following track, the Grace Jones featuring “Charger”, shows the singer hasn’t lost any of the mojo she presented in her 80’s heyday. Juxtaposed with Albarn’s unmistakable crooning, it proves to be one of the album’s best tracks.
One of the true outliers on the album is its first single, “Halleujah Money”. The song, featuring Benjamin Clementine, had many diehard fans up in arms about the stark change of sonics from the group’s best known work; in the context of the entire record, though, it makes perfect sense, and it serves as an analog to much of the four-on-the-floor mentality of the album. Paired with its dark and insidious music video, the song proves to be one of the most political and, if you will, anti-Trump moments on the record.
The amazing thing about this record is that it retains the entirety of the sound that Gorillaz are known and loved for, yet still pushes the boundaries of what pop means in 2017z Whether it’s a club banger [“Saturnz Barz (feat. Popcaan”)], pulsing synth pop [“Andromeda feat. D.R.A.M.”)], the classic Albarn ballad (“Busted and Blue”), or a no-holes-barred hip hop rave-up [“Let Me Out (feat. Mavis Staples and Pusha T)”], there is a song for everyone on Humanz. Everyone knows Blur is Albarn’s claim to fame, but with the new Gorillaz album he’s proving himself to be one of the true pop architects of the new millennium.