Gorillaz albums have always been about collaborations, with their previous album Plastic Beach featuring the likes of Lou Reed, De La Soul, Little Dragon, Gruff Rhys and Kano. Humanz is no different in this sense, with the album only having one track without a featured artist. They also tend to change their sound with each record while still maintaining
The first of these many features you hear on the album is Californian rapper Vince Staples, who dominates most of the high paced opening track ‘Ascension’, with Damon Albarn only popping up momentarily for a verse in the middle of the song.
Main single ‘Saturnz Barz’ with Jamie XX collaborator Popcaan is the first track on which you really hear Damon’s vocals used to their full potential, and they really do compliment Popcaan’s main verses well, especially towards the end of the song.
‘Momentz’ featuring long time collaborators De La Soul highlights why they work so well together, with the witty, slightly off-kilter verses from the hip hop trio making for another great track from Gorillaz and De La Soul.
Humanz has interludes scattered throughout it by Star Wars: Rogue One actor Ben Mendelsohn, and in my opinion they are a bit distracting from the flow of the album in places, with the majority of them feeling shoehorned in; one of them is a two second clip of him saying ”Elevator Going Up”. However there are a select few of these that do add to the album, with the ‘Non-Conformist Oath’ before Danny Brown featuring track ‘Submission’ working very well.
That track, featuring Kelela alongside Danny Brown, is one of the strongest cuts on ‘Humanz.’ Kelela sings the majority of the track before Danny comes in with some amazing bars at the end.
2-D and co. have always been ones to use upcoming or underground artists, like Kano back on 2010’s Plastic Beach, in their tracks alongside legends such as Lou Reed and Bobby Womack, and the inclusion of D.R.A.M, Benjamin Clementine and Kali Uchis alongside Grace Jones and Mavis Staples continues this tradition.
‘Andromeda ft. D.R.A.M. is another album highlight for me, with it being a melancholy track with beautiful vocals from Albarn as well as having a very catchy synth line throughout the song.
Following on from ‘Andromeda’ is ‘Busted and Blue’. A sad, beautiful ballad with a minimal, spacy backing track that continues the run of great tracks on the album that sadly comes to an end with ‘Carnival’ which just sounds jumbled and dull.
‘Let Me Out’ is a great example of how Gorillaz bring unlikely artists together to make a great track, with Mavis Staples and Pusha T featuring. However, following that is another lackluster track called ‘Sex Murder Party’ that, similar to ‘Carnival’, is just dull and would be better off as a B-Side.
The album finishes on its strongest track, with Jehnny Beth from Savages and Noel Gallagher coming together with Gorillaz to make an upbeat anthem of hope and unity that brings the project to a close.
Overall, Humanz is very good. There are a few unnecessary tracks and interludes that slow the album down but when it gets going, it’s really, really good.
Best 3: Andromeda, Submission, We Got The Power.