Gorillaz was created by London musicians and artists, Damon Albarn and Jamie Hewlett in 1998. The virtual band features four fictional band members: 2-D, Murdoc, Noodle, and Russel Hobbs. While the concept may not seem groundbreaking in the AI age we live in, they we’re ahead of their time to say the least. Originally debuting as “Gorilla”, their first recorded song was ‘Ghost Train‘. Gorillaz’s music has a unique blend of hip-hop, electronic, and rap paired with enticing lyrics and interesting characters. There’s a genre for just about every listener, which has kept Gorillaz relevant for 24 years.
Here’s are the top 10 Gorillaz songs to add to your playlist!
‘Humility’ was released in summer 2018 after a 5-year hiatus. The music video features three of the four classic Gorillaz cast: 2-D, Noodle, and Russell. Fans noticed the temporary edition to the band, Ace, who temporarily took Murdoc’s place as the base player. According to the Gorillaz lore, Murdoc was in prison. The music video features Jack Black playing the electric guitar while 2-D is skating at a beach.
The upbeat song paired with its bright visuals is very reminiscent of summer and made for a strong comeback for Gorillaz. The lyrics are about freedom and self-expression. It communicates that it’s okay to take a step back and re-evaluate yourself. Fans of the Gorillaz lore noticed that 2-D was genuinely happy for the first time. But at the end, it comes crashing down when he bumps into Russell. 2-D’s eyes glitch from white to black and he stumbles while skating.
2. ‘Clint Eastwood’
This list wouldn’t be complete without featuring this hit! ‘Clint Eastwood’ is the band’s most popular single, with the music video having over 656 million views on YouTube.
The song pays homage to American actor and filmmaker, Clint Eastwood and his film, The Good, The Bad, and The Ugly (1966). The song itself has a catchy beat and lyrics and phenomenal rapping by Del the Funky Homosapien. The underlying message is about oppression and how people don’t perceive the world for what it truly is. Many of the lyrics contradict themselves, painting a picture of the true nature of reality.
This track paved the way for Gorillaz along with many great tracks and albums to come. It’s nearly impossible to hear the name Gorillaz and not have this song be mentioned first.
’19-2000′ is another one of the band’s most popular tracks, with over 129 million views on YouTube. This is also the first song where Noodle’s voice is featured. The music video features the Gorillaz gang going for a drive down a highway that’s built like a rollercoaster. There are jumps and explosions and even a giant moose at the end that wrecks the car and brings the video to an abrupt end.
The song is in reference to the turn of the century from the 1900s to the 2000s. The lyrics reference the social pressures of keeping up with the times that are moving too fast. They also break the fourth wall by mentioning their own music. Gorillaz’s songs are often depressing and emotional, but they’re covered with an upbeat tone. 2-D urges listeners to pay attention to what he’s singing about and to “stop dancing to the music of Gorillaz in a happy mood.”
4. ‘Feel Good inc.’
Continuing the theme of classic songs, ‘Feel Good Inc’ is yet another popular song from the band. It has over 725 million views on YouTube and is the only one of their songs to make the Billboard Top 40 and won them a Grammy for Best Pop Collaboration with Vocals with Trugoy the Dove. The 2D imagery was also inspired by Hayao Miyazaki’s animated film, Castle In The Sky (1986). Out of all of Gorillaz’s music videos, ‘Feel Good Inc.’ is the most cinematic.
The song itself is about herd mentality and escapism. The name ‘Feel Good Inc’ refers to the different forms of escapism people use to ignore the crumbling city around them. The lyrics paired with amazing instrumentals and the iconic Trugoy the Dove laugh makes for a song worth remembering.
‘Dracula’ is one of Gorillaz’s lesser-known songs. The track is reminiscent of reggae and pop and features a sound bit in the beginning from a Loony Tunes episode from 1963. The lyrics are about working and burnout. As people, we work all day Monday through Friday. But when night time comes, some people party until the sun comes up. This leads to people feeling tired and never having time to sleep, almost like vampires.
The song ended up as a bonus track from the band’s initial debut album, Gorillaz. Nevertheless, it is well worth the listen.
6. ‘Saturnz barz’
Following the theme of reggae, we have ‘Saturnz Barz’. This is one of the more popular tracks from the band’s Humanz album, with the music video having over 122 million views on YouTube. Much like ‘Feel Good Inc’, the music video is very cinematic. The first half is the Gorillaz gang discovering a haunted house. The second half is the actual song with visuals of them being harassed by aliens. The song also features Jamaican singer Popcaan.
The lyrics lament about living with past mistakes. It also talks about being in debt and breaking relationships. The instrumentals make the song a surreal experience, making it one of my favorite Gorillaz songs.
7. ‘Little Pink Plastic Bags’
The Fall is often deemed the worst Gorillaz album and nearly ended their career. But I believe some of the songs have their own charm. ‘Little Pink Plastic Bags’ was meant to be a lazy song, which reflects in the lyrics and its easygoing melody. The song is a metaphor for people who do not aspire to be anything and have no direction in life. According to an anonymous interview, Damon Albarn’s inspiration quite literally came from seeing plastic bags blowing down the street. It’s a simple song, but it holds more meaning that many listeners realize.
8. ‘Fire flies’
‘Fire Flies’ is one of the more depressing songs Gorillaz has released. The instrumentals are a beautiful mixture of techno and synthwave. But the lyrics tell a much sadder story. The ‘fire flies’ represent dreams that can’t be achieved. Because of this, the person turns to other coping mechanisms like drugs and alcohol. Compared to many other tracks, this one can be a bummer lyric-wise. But I recommend giving it a listen for its amazing sound.
‘Ascension’ featuring Vince Staples is possibly Gorillaz’s most political track. In today’s day and age, we find ourselves constantly fighting against racism and inequality. Vince references many instances of black Americans and slaves being brutalized in the U.S. Despite these real issues affecting our everyday lives, we are forced to focus on less important things. In 2-D’s lyrics, he talks about getting drunk and high to distract himself.
This track is not the first time the band has touched on politics. Until the release of ‘Ascension’ it was more subtle. But now with the current political climate and the push for change, the band is free to be more explicit about these discussions.
10. ‘momentary bliss’
‘Momentary Bliss’ is the first episode of Gorillaz’s mini series, Song Machine. It’s a unique mix of guitar, drums, synths, and hip-hop. The song featuring slowthai and Slaves is about chronic use of social media. Everything we see online has some sort of influence on us. Thus, it changes how we view ourselves and the rest of the world. Not only does the song point out these issues, but it also encourages self love and knowing one’s worth.
Gorillaz has made an undeniable impact on the music community for the last 24 years. Each song has their own unique style and message that anyone can enjoy along with timeless classics. Here at Mic Drop Music, we want to know what you think! Do you agree with the list? Are there other Gorillaz songs you recommend? Let us know in the comments below!