Music

As Gorillaz transitions into the mainstream, we should all start paying attention

After six years in the dark, Gorillaz fans are being rewarded for their patience. The band’s next album is nearly here, and additional content will follow its release. As Gorillaz makes its way into the mainstream, more than just devoted fans should be paying close attention to this increasingly revolutionary alternative act.

The band will drop its fifth album, “Humanz,” this Friday. Gorillaz, consisting of four constantly evolving cartoon characters, has established itself as an act unlike any other in the industry. This year, the band is pushing its limits.

The four tracks released from the new album drew popular and critical acclaim. But their true feat was the number of collaborators involved, with names like Vince Staples, Pusha T, D.R.A.M. and legend Mavis Staples signing on to deliver vocals.

Despite star power, the band maintains the relatively underground status it prides itself on, as none of these tracks have yet developed into a mainstream hit. Gorillaz is breaking new ground in the alternative genre, but not betraying its established image, and keeping fans as happy as ever.

The band has capitalized on the album’s hype, announcing its own festival, titled the Demon Dayz Festival, after its most successful album — so far. It’s set to take place in the U.K. on June 10, but the band is reportedly working on another iteration of the festival in Chicago at some point this year. If successful, this would hopefully become an annual event, keeping Gorillaz and their music in the public sphere even between album releases.

They have announced their first North American tour in seven years, following a sold-out comeback show in London where they played “Humanz” in full for a lucky group of fans.

Known to take advantage of the technology of the times, the band launched its own app, which primarily functions in virtual reality, and they released a 360 music video. Provided the animated nature of the band, there is a whole universe attached to it, always expanding for fans to explore. Virtual reality is one of the most prevalent trends in the music industry, with acts like Saint Motel and One Republic releasing music videos in VR.

Gorillaz put out a video for its new song “Saturnz Barz” last month. In the first 48 hours of its release it had more than three million views, setting a record for the highest debut of a VR video in YouTube history.

A TV show surrounding the lives of the band’s characters is set to air. Few details exist regarding the show, but frontman Damon Albarn accidentally let slip that a 10-episode series is in production. This works for Gorillaz, whose characters all have complex arcs spanning the 20-plus years since the band’s start and even longer backstories.

It is as obvious as ever that this band is truly a legend in the making. If you weren’t paying attention to them before, now is definitely the time to start — though it seems pretty unavoidable at this point.

Friday’s album release will kick start a historic year ahead for the band, and we should all be watching closely. As noted by Pitchfork, “while Gorillaz aren’t ‘real,’ they definitely exist.”

Jenny Bourque is a freshman English and textual studies major. Her column appears weekly in Pulp. You can email her at jabourqu@syr.edu.

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