Under the guise of Gorillaz, Damon Albarn has become pop music's greatest curator. His track record for acquiring pertinent guests over the animated group's five albums is nothing short of remarkable, but even more impressive is how he has integrated these artists into the Gorillaz universe.
As Albarn has explained, Humanz was born from an idea that the world was about to collapse based on one life-altering event. Obviously such a thing happened, making the gravitas all the more effective, but Gorillaz know how to write the "we're all doomed" narrative and make it fun. "Hallelujah Money" is a direct commentary on Trump paranoia, but it's also strangely empowering, thanks to a gospel choir and Benjamin Clementine echoing a "hallelujah."
Listen for the collaborations and you'll hear regulars De La Soul hype up the effervescent "Momentz," Kelela push "Submission" into a slinky R&B jam that includes Danny Brown going off, Grace Jones dominate Albarn on the hypnotic "Charger," and Mavis Staples wail the chorus to the Pusha T-led "Let Me Out." The list goes on and on until "We Got the Power" where Savages' Jehnny Beth and Noel Gallagher's buried guitar leads end things on a hopeful note.
Humanz might just be Albarn's greatest achievement yet with Gorillaz. Although it lacks the kind of Apple-friendly jingles that have made them such a smash, it makes up for it with palatably overarching political themes and sequencing that gives it the wildly entertaining feel of a circus show. (Parlophone)