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Album Review: Gorillaz returns with Humanz

Antonio Pequeño IV, A&E Editor

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After an extensive hiatus, Gorillaz are back with their fifth studio album, Humanz. At this point, it’s standard practice for the band to let a significant amount of time pass before releasing a new album. When a new Gorillaz album is released, it’s sure to involve some critical social commentary on the current times and Humanz is no exception. The album is studded with a plethora of collaborators and uses them in a decent manner.

The album kicks off with “Ascension (feat. Vince Staples),” a fast-paced song with plenty of drums and slick verses from Staples as he’s backed up by a church choir continuously belting out the word “Higher!” Staples tacks on to anti-government sentiment and pulls no punches with the lines, “I’m just playing, baby, this the land of the free, where you can get a Glock and a gram for the cheap. Where you can live your dreams long as you don’t look like me, be a puppet on a string, hanging from a f—–g tree.”

The following tracks “Strobelite (feat. Peven Everett)” and “Saturnz Barz (feat. Popcaan)” are unique from one another when it comes to sound. “Strobelite” is funky and compliments Everett’s vocals well while “Saturnz Barz” is a spacey and bass filled dancehall track. “Momentz (feat. De La Soul)” sounds like a promising feature and it is for the most part. It’s the extremely blocky and poorly executed kick that’s featured on the beat, really throwing it off.

“Submission (feat. Danny Brown & Kelela)” does an exceptional job implementing Kelela’s vocals with an interesting beat but doesn’t work out as well for Brown. The following track “Charger (feat. Grace Jones)” is really well done between lead singer, Damon Albarn’s vocals, the cohesive rhythm and the buzzing guitar strings. “Andromeda (feat. D.R.A.M.)” is a groovy, glitzy and a fun track provided by D.R.A.M.’s bridge and Albarn’s smooth approach with the chorus.

“Busted and Blue” is a departure from all of the album’s features and is among the most intimate works of Humanz with its heavy dependence of ambient sounds and melancholic atmosphere. The creeping composition of “Carnival (feat. Anthony Hamilton)” does a nice job complimenting Hamilton’s vocal range.

The following collaboration with Mavis Staples and Pusha T in the song “Let Me Out” is arguably one of the best songs of the album. Viewers get a solid balance of verses from Pusha T and choruses from Mavis and Albarn alongside the punchy and abrasive beat. This song, much like “Ascension (feat. Vince Staples),” addresses hot-button societal issues. “Tell me there’s a chance for me to make it off the streets. Tell me that I won’t die at the hands of the police,” Pusha T spits.

“Sex Murder Party (feat. Jamie Principle & Zebra Katz)” is a dip in the album. Whether it just happens to be the style of Principle & Katz or not, their parts feel cut and give the song an empty feeling at certain intervals. This track is essentially a checkpoint for the lesser part of the album. “She’s My Collar (feat. Kali Uchis)” is the exception to the weaker tracks but is barely a saving grace for the politically themed “Hallelujah Money (geat. Benjamin Clementine)” and “We Got the Power (feat. Jehnny Beth)” which sounds like a gleeful musical number out of a children’s movie.

Some standouts from the last five tracks include the synth and pad laced “The Apprentice (feat. Rag’n’Bone Man, Zebra Katz & RAY BLK)” which excels in using collaborator vocals. Additionally, Kilo Kish’s rhyme scheme and the beat change up on “Out of Body (feat. Kilo Kish, Zebra Katz & Imani Vonshà)” make for a unique and energetic composition.

In essence, the mass amount of collaborators makes Humanz more of a playlist than an album. Listeners are going to get a profusion of different musical styles and genres which is something Gorillaz is known for more or less. Although, this style of organizing a record leads to a less cohesive flow which definitely has it’s fair share of good and bad elements.

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