In 1998, when comic book artist Jamie Hewlett and frontman of the band Blur Damon Albarn were roommates sitting watching MTV, they had the brilliant idea of starting a virtual band. Damon Albarn stated in an interview to The Wire, “If you watch MTV for too long, it’s a bit like hell – there’s nothing of substance there. So we got this idea for a cartoon band, something that would be a comment on that.” Gorillaz was created to comment on the idolization of artists of the 90s: with the rise of “boy bands” from left to right there was less focus on music and more focus on the artist’s looks. Albarn added, “We’re the generation whose stars come from Pop Idol and celebrity-wrestling shows. And it’s all a bit like a cartoon, really.”
In 2001, the band debuted the self titled album Gorillaz with global success. The album was home to hit songs such as “Clint Eastwood, 19-2000, Tomorrow Comes Today” and more, with the song “Clint Eastwood” topping in both the U.K and the United states. The thing with these songs is that they are all different genres but on the same album. “Clint Eastwood” is a song with a heavy boom bap instrumental and a rap verse from Del the Funky Homosapien. “19-2000” is a track that is influenced by trip-hop, and “Tomorrow Comes Today” has a similar boom bap beat as “Clint Eastwood” but joining it with instruments that deal with folk and rock.
This blend of genre became Gorillaz signature; they do not have any one sound. By not putting the band in a specific box, Albarn and Co. were able to collaborate with different artist from different genres. This made a Gorillaz song a blank canvas for Damon Albarn and whoever he was collaborating with.
In 2005, this was made ever more clear with the release of the album “Demon Days,” which outsold their first album, selling over 8 million copies worldwide. The musical palette of “Demon Days” ranged from Hip-hop song such as “November has Come” to dance song like “Dirty Harry”, and “Dare”, to full on Gospel song like 14th track “Don’t Get Lost in Heaven.” Each and every song transitioned into one another perfectly. “Demon Days” is an album considered a classic in the mind of many because it tackled issues such as violence, war and poverty while using almost every aspect of music to get its point across.
The album “Plastic Beach,” released in 2010, is the perfect representation of Damon and Company’s love of every genre. The album consists of hip-hop, dance, country, rock, electronica, synth-pop and more. To understand Gorillaz (as a band) and how beautifully put together this album is, one has to listen to the song “Empire Ants,” within this one song there is country, synth-pop and dance in only 5 minutes.
Gorillaz has been a band who make music their main focus by use every aspect of it to create masterpieces. With a new album slated for April 28th called “Humanz,” they will without doubt continue celebrating music.