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Eight Gorillaz Collaborations To Get You Excited For Song Machine

22 October 2020 | 5:20 pm | Tobias Handke

With their new album, 'Song Machine', almost upon us, we take you through some of the very best collaborations Gorillaz have gifted us over the years.

Few modern bands have caught the attention of music fans like Gorillaz. The brainchild of Blur frontman Damon Albarn and Tank Girl artist James Hewlett, the animated act have continually surprised with their combination of genre-bending compositions, vibrant visuals and off the wall collaborations. Whoever thought we’d see Elton John and 6LACK on the same track?

After two decades of incredible musical team-ups, Gorillaz makes their triumphant return this week with their seventh long-player Song Machine, Season One: Strange Timez. Originally beginning life as an online series of monthly music videos with Gorillaz performing with a wide array of famous musos, the project has morphed into a full-length album featuring the likes Beck, Schoolboy Q, Robert Smith and St. Vincent. If the thought of Gorillaz and the great Robert Smith doesn’t get you excited, then these awesome Gorillaz collaborations will surely have you pumped for pumped for the release of Song Machine this Friday.

‘Clint Eastwood’ ft. Del The Funky Homosapien

Nobody quite knew what to expect when Albarn traded Blur for a cartoon band, but any fears he’d lost the plot were quickly put to rest with the release of first single ‘Clint Eastwood.’ Produced with a simple hip-hop drumbeat, programmed strings and a melodica, the track is sonic delight dominated by Del The Funky Homosapien’s insightful raps. The big surprise is Albarn, who happily takes a backseat, singing the understated hook while Del rides the beat. 

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‘DARE’ ft. Shaun Ryder

Gorillaz’s only UK number one is a dance anthem with Happy Monday’s vocalist Shaun Ryder front and centre. Similar to the type of chart-topping hits being produced at that time by fellow UK acts Basement Jaxx and Chemical Brothers, ‘DARE’ is a feel-good party starter making good use of Ryder’s unique vocals. Fun fact: due to Ryder’s strong Manchurian accent, he was unable to pronounce “It’s there,” the song’s original title, so it was changed to ‘DARE.’ 

‘Feel Good Inc’ ft. De La Soul

This song is solely responsible for a new generation of fans discovering hip-hop icons De La Soul. While still relatively big in the States at the time of the song’s release, the global success of ‘Feel Good Inc.’ meant De La Soul once again became a household name. The old school flow of the trio suits the minimal upbeat production employed by Albarn, with the colourful music video inspired by Hayao Miyazaki’s 1986 animated classic Castle In The Sky.

‘Stylo’ ft. Bobby Womack & Yasiin Bey

An American R&B legend, Bobby Womack made several contributions to Gorillaz albums before his death in 2014. Of all the tracks he appeared on, ‘Stylo’ is easily my favourite. Womack’s dynamic vocals command attention and are a great juxtaposition to Albarn’s pedestrian delivery. He really instils the song with a sense of soul, while Yasiin Bey comes out of nowhere with a quick-fire verse reminding all of his talents. Then there’s the hilarious film clip, featuring Gorillaz involved in a car chase with chrome dome action hero Bruce Willis

‘White Flag’ ft. Bashy, Kano & the National Orchestra for Arabic Music

Merging traditional middle eastern instruments with hip-hop sounds like a recipe for disaster, but in the hands of Albarn, it’s a refreshing melting pop paying respects to both cultures. Grime artists Bashy and Kano are giving plenty of space to flex their lyrical muscles over the computer bleeping middle section on this high-spirited track that acts as an introduction to the confronting themes of Plastic Beach

‘To Binge’ ft. Little Dragon

Little Dragon appears twice on Gorillaz’s excellent third record Plastic Beach. ‘Empire Ants’ is a dreamy lo-fi vision while ‘To Binge’ is a strange melancholy chamber pop concoction featuring harmonies from Albarn and Little Dragon’s Yukimi Nagano. Despite the pop edge to both tracks, they deal with heavy issues (regret and alcoholism) and showcase Albarn’s serious side as a lyricist. 

‘Ascension’ – Vince Staples

Albarn’s love of hip-hop is no secret. Almost every Gorillaz album features a rapper in some form, but none have brought the heat quite like Vince Staples. The Cali spitter with the best Twitter account going annihilates the dystopian beat with impactful rhymes about inequality and racism. This is as much a Gorillaz track as it is a Staples solo joint.

‘Aries’ ft. Peter Hook & Georgia 

My favourite of the singles released from Song Machine, ‘Aries’ is a jolly synth-pop number featuring legendary bassist Peter Hook and session drummer Georgia, who just so happens to be the daughter of Leftfield’s Neil Barnes. Hooky delivers one of his classic bass lines on ‘Aries,’ with the track very reminiscent of New Order in their heyday. 

Song Machine is out everywhere October 23rd.

Words by Tobias Handke