Gorillaz have been a thing of wonder ever since their inception. The group of cartoons created some truly memorable songs over the years and brought with them some strong messages. There's always been a sort of disconnect with their emotional side, though. They've more or less been robots that have reactions. Gorillaz embraces emotion in Humanz, an album that sees them begin to develop their abilities as humans.
Most of Humanz has a pretty interesting sound to it. No track is exactly the same, but there's a general sense of fun and groove that finds itself in nearly every track on the record. A prime example is 'Strobelite' featuring Peven Everett. It's synth intro is backed by a funky bassline and muddy keyboard chords. Everett sings funkily over the track as the synth imitates the vocal melodies. The same idea is present in 'Carnival' with Anthony Hamilton, the song's fun vibe giving the song its character.
It's really the instrumentals in Humanz that take the spotlight. There's epic moments, like the spiraling 'Charger' with Grace Jones and the cool tones of 'Submission' featuring Danny Brown and Kelela, though Kelela is a highlight of the track. Opening track 'Ascension' has a fast tempo to kick the record off and implement the interesting instrumental movements that embody the record. The chill tracks also provide lots of different textures, especially 'Andromeda' featuring D.R.A.M.
Humanz hits both ends of great and bad. At the top, lies single 'Saturnz Barz' featuring Popcaan. It's dark mood and reggae delivery has not lost its charm since it's release; in fact, it only gets better. The fact that you can't understand a damn thing Popcaan sings adds to the songs unknown vibe. The fat bass synth backing the track give it that powerful drive while the synths dance freely above all else. When the clean vocals from Damon Albarn come in with "I'm in the staking bar / I got debts, I'm a debasser" as the song discusses discovering the feeling of hallucinating (or getting high). The second set of clean vocals add a whole new layer to the track that make it all the more epic.
The lows of the record are pretty sad, though. All the interludes are completely useless, and while they may be creative at times, for the most part, like in 'Elevator Going Up' and 'The Elephant,' it interrupts the flow of the record and has a jarring presence amidst everything else. Some tracks try a bit too hard to be weird, like 'Momentz.' De La Soul features on the track with some fun verses, but the pounding EDM bass drum and the Kanye West vocoder makes this song feel very over-the-top, in a bad way. Lead single 'Hallelujah Money' with Benjamin Clementine is as bad as ever, and actually feels even worse than it was when it had the context of learning political anger (in our terms, the election of Donald Trump). Closing track 'We Got The Power' feels like a weak way of closing off the record, Savages' Jehnny Beth feeling out of place without much darkness to back her anthemic vocals. Her vocals are great, but they do sound a bit awkward in the context of her music. The song ends pretty awkwardly too, with nothing but "We got the power!" sung in such a way that requires more to come after it ending everything off.
While the songs may not really stress their meanings, they do add up to a whole. Every song in Humanz finds itself describing and emotion or experience that ultimately makes us who we are. Everything from politics to love to getting high is covered in this record, providing the whole human experience to this band of cartoons who never really reached that point. This album's outward way of expressing itself and letting itself speak freely is perhaps a lesson it can even teach us. Instead of teaching us how to feel emotions, Humanz teaches us how to channel them.
Gorillaz are always offering up something interesting. Whether they are speaking out against a global issue or some crazy fever dream, their songs always have a message. The days of these cartoons being just that are over, though, as Gorillaz embraces emotion in Humanz and teaches them the experiences and feelings they need to become something more. It even teaches us, who already feel emotions, something about expressing them. It's an album with multiple ins and outs, but in the end, it shows us that we are all just Humanz.
Favorite Tracks: Saturnz Barz, Strobelite
Least Favorite Tracks: Interludes, Hallelujah Money, Momentz
Rating: 77 / 100
Buy or listen to Humanz here: