10 Best Gorillaz Songs
In the history of rock music, there’s no better fake cartoon group than Gorillaz. Granted, it’s not a very crowded playing field, but we’re still convinced that even if there were more than, say, a half-dozen of these bands out there, the indie-rock project fronted by Blur‘s Damon Albarn would still come out on top. They’ve released four albums over the past 11 years with various lineups, shifts in musical style and groundbreaking concepts (2010’s ‘The Fall’ was recorded entirely on an iPad and originally released as a free download to subscribers of the group’s fan club). Our list of the 10 Best Gorillaz Songs is almost as extensive as the group’s music.
‘Revolving Doors’ is one of the most meditative and straightforward songs in the group’s catalog. And, surprisingly, it’s not about the band’s consistently shifting lineup. It’s actually about being away from home (the revolving doors here are on hotels). Most of ‘The Fall’ was written and recorded while Gorillaz were touring their third album, ‘Plastic Beach,’ so the songs are mainly about being on the road. This is the most reflective.
‘On Melancholy Hill’
Despite the title, this synth-heavy pop song is one of Gorillaz’s breeziest cuts and one of Albarn’s all-time friendliest. It falls between two of ‘Plastic Beach”s heaviest tracks (one is called ‘Broken’ and the other features Lou Reed), so it serves as a brief ray of hope among the despair, and Louness, surrounding it.
The second single from the band’s third album features appearances by Gruff Rhys (frontman of the ’90s Britpop group Super Furry Animals) and De La Soul, who collaborated with Gorillaz on ‘Demon Days” ‘Feel Good Inc.’ (See No. 2 on our list of the 10 Best Gorillaz Songs.) It starts with a sample from an ’80s microwave-breakfast commercial and moves into an equally playful hip-hop/indie groove that falls somewhere between De La Soul’s early records and Blur’s first couple of albums.
The second single from the band’s debut album features a bubbly groove, squiggly synths and a solid but faint hip-hop foundation. There’s also another version of the song out there called ‘Soulchild Remix’ that totally deconstructs the track, complete with a new vocal by Albarn. It’s worth checking out, too.
‘Tomorrow Comes Today’
This highlight from 2001’s self-titled album made its debut a year earlier on a four-song EP that was actually the band’s first-ever release. ‘Tomorrow Comes Today’ features one of Gorillaz’s deepest hip-hop beats, a slow and slinky bass-heavy track that Albarn rides like a steady rolling wave.
This sequel of sorts to ‘Gorillaz”s ‘Clint Eastwood’ once again pays tribute to the steely actor who’s been known to hold conversations with vacant chairs from time to time. And like the first song, ‘Dirty Harry’ features a funky groove (this one sounds like it was shipped in from the early ’80s) and a freestylin’ rap (Bootie Brown from the Pharcyde spits the rhyme).
The second single from the band’s second album features a vocal by Happy Mondays’ Shaun Ryder, whose slurred British accent prompted the title change (the original line was supposed to be “it’s there“). There’s a round-robin feel to the song, as various members (in their cartoon aliases, of course) trade verses.
The first single from Gorillaz’s third album features a scorching vocal by R&B legend Bobby Womack (whose 2012 comeback album, ‘The Bravest Man in the Universe,’ was produced by Albarn). The techno-reggae rhythm is one of the group’s most adventurous; lyrically, however, ‘Stylo’ is a bit fuzzy. (Reportedly, Womack just sang whatever he wanted.) Either way, it’s one of Gorillaz’s best.
‘Feel Good Inc.’
Gorillaz’s biggest U.S. hit (it reached No. 14) includes a Grammy-winning turn by hip-hop greats De La Soul, who nearly steal the song from Albarn. ‘Feel Good Inc.’ rolls several different tunes, all of them pretty good, into three and a half minutes and somehow still manages to make room for handclaps and canned laughs.
Even though the legendary actor isn’t mentioned by name in Gorillaz’s breakthrough single, he’s all over it: In addition to the melodica that plays throughout — which recalls composer Ennio Morricone’s musical themes for The Man With No Name Trilogy that made Eastwood a star — the song’s signature line, “I’ve got sunshine in a bag,” comes from ‘The Good, the Bad and the Ugly.’ The track also features a terrific turn by indie rapper Del Tha Funkee Homosapien. Plus, the song’s deep sonic palette reveals something new every time you listen to it. An instant classic.