Story by Ty Smith, Staff Writer
Photo courtesy of Rolling Stone
The time’s finally here– acclaimed virtual band Gorillaz is ramping up to release their highly anticipated album “Humanz”. The release comes seven years after their last album, “Plastic Beach”, and Gorillaz’s return to form seems as genre-defying as ever. They also will make a return to the political nature of their earlier albums; “Demon Days” was a blistering anthem against the Iraq War when it released in 2004.
This album will be no different, if the currently released singles are any hint. The first of these dropped just 24 hours before Donald Trump took office, and is named “Hallelujah Money.” Featuring Mercury Prize winner Benjamin Clementine, the song narrates the ruler of a great tree. The ruler fears that crows from the ‘Far a-East’ will come to eat its tender fruits. So, he decides, the best way to protect the tree is to build a glorious wall, “even stronger than the walls of Jericho.”
The song obviously alludes to Trump’s plan to build a wall, and continues to talk about the abuse of power and promises of a better life that cannot be fulfilled. The track sounds ominous and foreboding, lifted up only by angelic gospel choirs singing “Hallelujah Money.” Near the end, 2D (the lead singer) provides a counterbalance to the ruler’s message, asking “How will we know, when the morning comes, we are still humans?.”
I’ll admit, on the first listen to this song I didn’t like it at all. The track was too laid-back and melancholy, and didn’t have a lot going on. But on the second listen, paying attention to the lyrics, I came to appreciate it, and by the third I liked it in its own right. This is a common thing with Gorillaz, lovingly dubbed “The Gorillaz Effect.” Most of the band’s songs aren’t well-received by the first listen, but give it a week and they tend to be heralded as masterpieces.
A few weeks after dropping “Hallelujah Money,” Gorillaz dropped another track, “Saturnz Barz” feat. Popcaan. This track is much more chill than “Hallelujah Money,” featuring a strong beat, a distorted electronic synth, and the smooth vocals of Jamaican DJ Popcaan. Here, the lyrics are less clear due to Popcaan’s accent and style, but just as meaningful as “Hallelujah Money.”
Popcaan talks about how his entire life, he had the means to take a wild approach and solve all his problems with violence, but this could get him imprisoned or killed. Instead, he decided to think and work with his intellect, which is harder but more rewarding. However, the system forces many people like him to be killers just to get by in life. The rest of the song talks about the system and what it does to his Jamaican people, where the poverty rate is high, the crime rate is high, and a full 25 percent of males are illiterate.
This song, too, benefits greatly from ”The Gorillaz Effect.” As a person who dislikes modern “mumble rap,” my inability to understand Popcaan at first made me a bit apprehensive about the song. However, a subsequent listen allowed me to understand some of what was being said, and after researching Popcaan and the lyrics, I can now fully appreciate it. I wouldn’t be against blasting this in my car, now that I know what it’s about, and now I can appreciate the chill track and the reggae influence of this track.
If these two tracks are anything like the rest of the album, I’d recommend this as a day-one purchase. As deeply political and meaningful as ever, Gorillaz’s comeback album is sure to please the casual listener and more interested listener alike. “Humanz” drops April 28th.
About the Writer:
Ty Smith is from a small town located in the thumb of Michigan. He loves writing, reading, music, and video games. He also believes that cats are better than dogs.