Humanz is the fifth studio album by British virtual band Gorillaz. The album was released on 28 April 2017 via Parlophone and Warner Bros. Records. The album was announced on the band's official Instagram page on 23 March 2017. According to a press release, the album was recorded in London, Paris, New York City, Chicago, and Jamaica and produced by Gorillaz, The Twilite Tone and Remi Kabaka, Jr. It is the band's first studio album since 2010's The Fall and features collaborations from several popular artists including Vince Staples, Popcaan, D.R.A.M., Grace Jones, Anthony Hamilton, De La Soul, Danny Brown, Kelela, Mavis Staples, Pusha T and Benjamin Clementine.
Gorillaz released the album The Fall in 2010. Around the same time, internet rumours had circulated that Gorillaz creators Damon Albarn and Jamie Hewlett had fallen out and that the band had split, which People Magazine subsequently reported as true. Representatives for the band denied the rumours in a statement to Pitchfork. Gorillaz released a single commissioned by Converse entitled "DoYaThing" on 23 February 2012. In April 2012, in an interview with the The Guardian, Damon Albarn stated that Gorillaz were "unlikely" to release new music, citing Hewlett's dissatisfaction that his animation had become less central to the band and their performances. In June 2013, Jamie Hewlett told Consequence of Sound, "I believe there is a future for the Gorillaz. But Gorillaz is quite a complicated and expensive thing to produce. So, I think we need to wait a little bit to see what happens because usually in the music industry everything changes."
Albarn released a solo album, Everyday Robots, on 25 April 2014. Hewlett revealed that he and Albarn decided to revive Gorillaz after Albarn had played a gig, "...we were at a party afterwards. We’d had a bit to drink, and he said, “Do you want to do another one?” And I said, “Do you?” and he said, “Do you?” And I said, “Yeah, sure.” I started work on it straight away, learning to draw the characters again. I played around by myself for eight months while he was performing with Blur in 2015." In October 2014, Albarn was said to be "in the process of reactivating Gorillaz for a 2016 release." In an Instagram post on 30 January 2015, Hewlett posted new drawings of fictional band members Murdoc and Noodle. He also responded to a fan's query by stating, "Yes Gorillaz Returns." Damon Albarn's band Blur released their eighth studio album The Magic Whip on 27 April 2015. Before Blur's tour in support of The Magic Whip, Albarn said, "I'm starting recording in September for a new Gorillaz record." On 19 January 2017, Gorillaz released their first song in 5 years "Hallelujah Money" featuring Benjamin Clementine; the song was released alongside a music video as a non-commercial single on Uproxx's YouTube channel.
Damon Albarn has said that with Humanz he set out to create something not overtly political, but "an emotional response to politics". The album's overarching theme is the emotional aftermath of an unexpected world-changing event. In an interview with Billboard, Albarn revealed that he deliberately removed all references to Trump on the album, saying "There’s no references to on the record - in fact, any time when anyone made any reference, I edited it out,” he says. “I don’t want to give the most famous man on earth any more fame, particularly. He doesn’t need it!" There is however, a bonus track called "The Apprentice," referencing his former reality show. At one point, the album was called Transformerz, although this was later abandoned, for fear of confusion with the film series of the same name.
Albarn was honoured at the Ivor Novello Awards where he picked up the lifetime achievement award for his work with Blur, Gorillaz, The Good, the Bad & the Queen, as well as his myriad of soundtrack and other work. During his acceptance speech, he spoke out about his love of the band Simple Minds - and how they may be shaping the new Gorillaz record: "From someone who grew up in Leytonstone, it was a culture shock to say the least. Anyway, we were in this band and we had a guitarist who was an Edge from U2 obsessive, but we had a more kind of loose bass player who was really Simple Minds. Graham and me were a bit kind of more mercurial about what we like and what we don't like, but they were more adamant. Looking back at it now, I loved pretending that I was in U2, but I just think that Simple Minds were cooler. "Promised You a Miracle" - I listened to it when I started doing this new Gorillaz record and it just blew my mind, and it blew everyone who I was working with's mind. They hadn't even heard of Simple Minds, and they loved it - so that's testament to it being incredible."
In cartoons the Road Runner can zoom through solid rock and Bugs Bunny can stop a bullet by shoving a carrot down a gun barrel.
Anything can happen, and so it is with the fifth album from Damon Albarn’s animated collective Gorillaz. Humanz is a technicolour epic, with 20 songs and six interludes in its deluxe version, a vast cast list and a darker sound that stretches from the thundering techno of Momentz to the strident proclamations of We Got the Power.
Guests including Jamaican dancehall man Popcaan, yelping rapper Danny Brown and a babbling Grace Jones by rights ought to give a disjointed feel, but the constant presence of Albarn’s warm analogue synths, and his languid voice drifting across the songs, makes it hold together regardless.
It’s hard to imagine how he’ll turn this army of performers into a coherent live spectacle at Gorillaz’ own festival in Margate this summer, but as a headphone record Humanz is a dazzling experience.