Artist in Focus: Gorillaz

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It is without doubt that Gorillaz are one of the most iconic and recognisable bands in recent times. Being the first ever virtual band, founders Damon Albarn and Jamie Hewlett really struck gold by fusing their respective musical and artistic genius. They epitomise uniqueness, refuse to be boxed-in, and have flourished in every endeavour. As an artistic emblem they are world renown, and as a musical force, they are household names.

Formed in 1998, from conception the band was already gifted with the musicianship of Britpop deity Damon Albarn. Having achieved so much already in his career, the Blur frontman conjured up, with artist Jamie Hewlett, an idea that would revolutionise the way we experience and view music. Gorillaz are genuine pioneers and explorers of music to a degree that has scarcely been seen in my lifetime. Identifying as a virtual band, they officially consists of four animated members: 2-D (lead vocals, keyboards), Murdoc Niccals (bass guitar), Noodle (guitar, keyboards) and Russel Hobbs (drums and percussion). As a result of this, Gorillaz are also incredibly distinctive as live performers. It has become a custom that Hewlett’s art is projected onto the stage, creating an audio-visual stimulation that has never yet been paralleled. Somehow, almost miraculously, Albarn and co. have brought an animated band into reality and global consciousness without the reliance on television or film. They exist in our world as we do, a band formed from nothing but pixels have become celebrities and artists in their own rights, despite their virtual entity.

As well-known as they are for their cartoon production, Gorillaz are equally reputable for their multitude of collaborators. Albarn and Hewlett are the only permanent human members, but throughout Gorillaz’s existence, the likes of Shaun Ryder, Debbie Harry and more recently Popcaan and one-time rival Noel Gallagher, have all contributed to the discography. Despite achieving mainstream success, reaching number 4 in the UK charts with debut single ‘Clint Eastwood’ in 2001 and the following self-titled album selling over 7 million copies and going platinum in the US, it wasn’t until 2005 that the band released their best work. Third studio album Demon Days catapulted them from one height to rather fittingly super-human levels. It went double platinum in the US and received multiple Grammy nominations, whilst introducing the world to some of their greatest hits, including ‘Feel Good Inc.’, ‘Dirty Harry’ and ‘DARE’, which are now familiar worldwide. With their most recent release Humanz, the band are proving that they still have the capability of producing new and original material that only furthers their brilliance.

They are really like no other artist, with ever-increasing innovation, and a lack of fear of branching out, the band have achieved a legendary status, being both commercially and critically adored. Perhaps what makes me idolise Gorillaz to such extremities is the fact that, through choice, they have not confined themselves to a genre, or restricted themselves to certain expectations, but have remained true to their explorative nature and have reaped the rewards of their bravery. Whether referring to them as alternative rock, hip-hop, electronica, reggae, rap or indie, you cannot deny the genius thought that goes into such a unique band.

Gorillaz’s new single ‘Garage Palace (ft. Little Simz)’ is out now via Parlophone 

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