I Am Destroyed – “Am I a Girl?” Review

My feelings toward internet pop sensation Poppy have always felt a little confused. On one hand, I think her music is endlessly catchy, her image is really fun and cheeky and humorous, and her whole shtick is really well done, but on the other hand… well… it’s pretty clear that Poppy is meant to be a parody of the modern pop star.

So when I’m enjoying her catchy pop songs… am I the target of Poppy’s derision? Am I even supposed to be enjoying Poppy’s music?

…I’m thinking too hard about this, maybe.

But either way, I think many people, myself included, were surprised at Poppy’s newest album, “Am I a Girl?” It dropped on Halloween this year, and featured musical and genre influences that I’ve never heard from Poppy before. The perfectly polished android pop star we were all used to was suddenly putting on a new image.

How well did it work out? Let’s find out.

In a Minute

What I think surprised me the most about this album, putting aside some of the genre influences, is the lyrics.

Before, in songs like “Money” and “Moshi Moshi,” Poppy’s lyrics are mostly concerned with talking about vague concepts that many people would relate to, as the genre she’s parodying tends to do, without any interest in making a statement on those concepts that is personal to the singer. “In a Minute” immediately destroys this usual habit of Poppy’s.

This track is a repetitive, electro-military track that seems to strongly imply Poppy’s dissatisfaction with how her popularity as a singer has made her decisions less her own and more at the whims of the entertainment industry. She repeats the things she has to do in order to appease her fans, because she’s “busy and important” and that is simply what she must do.

Yes, instead of lampshading just pop music, “Am I a Girl?” throws punches at the entertainment industry as a whole, and in my opinion, reflects more of Poppy’s character than ever before. I don’t think this song is the best one to illustrate the latter development, so I’ll expand on that later.

As for quality though, “In a Minute” is catchy, clean, and tight and sticks with you forever afterward. It also has a simplistic but trippy music video that goes along with it, one that pays homage to Poppy’s fondness for Illuminati symbols, to boot.

Fashion After All

Befitting a song with a title about fashion, this track sounds exactly like something that would blare as supermodels in weird haute couture strut down a runway. That pounding electronic beat, and the distant echo of Poppy’s vocals makes a catchy little track, but I appreciate this song for its lyrics as well.

Perhaps a little sarcastically, Poppy decries the nature of fame, of having people watch her every move, declaring her either a perfect paradigm of morality or a devil, viewing every fashion choice she makes as gospel. It’s an interesting blur of character. Normally, it seems like Poppy is adamant about sticking to her shtick of distant, perfect android pop star. But here it seems like the musician behind the image has stepped out from behind the curtain to discuss how all the sudden attention has made her feel.

And yet, that same clean Poppy sound persists. It’s what makes this album so odd, and so intriguing, at least to me.

Iconic

Though I’m fascinated by the way this track is constructed – similarly to the track before it with a very high-fashion runway kind of beat, but with less of a commitment to sticking to that sound throughout – it doesn’t quite work for me. I think it sticks to a message repeated throughout the album, poking fun at the popular terminology used to describe our pop icons. Poppy seems to wax philosophical on what exactly makes someone “iconic.”

The lyrics are fine enough, the song itself just doesn’t work for me. I think the way the vocals switch pitch and emotion throughout is interesting, but doesn’t do enough to differentiate this track from the rest.

Chic Chick

Here’s the weird thing about this album. If Poppy had released a song like “Chic Chick” on any other album except this particular one, I would have assumed that this song is meant to make fun of your stock “rah rah girl power” pop fare. But with all the surrounding content of “Am I a Girl?”, I can’t help but feel like this song is 100% honest. Poppy really means this song, and that’s actually kind of charming.

If you’ll allow me to speculate on the lore of this album for a moment, I wonder if this album is Poppy’s android character exploring the concept of humanity, finally starting to understand some of the subjects of all the pop songs she’s obviously studied and copied. And this album is that character attempting to find how she feels about many of these subjects, hence the question in the title – “Am I a Girl?”

Time is Up ft. Diplo

If we take that meaning of the album, that provides an even deeper look into this track.

Story-wise, I think this song is pretty clear. The lyrics, from Poppy’s robot perspective, discuss the destruction of the Earth by humanity, ruminating on her immortality, and how she will outlive humanity’s self-destruction. Taken in the context of how Poppy is also perhaps trying to align herself with humans in this album, the song takes on a double, sad meaning. It’s as if Poppy is attempting to warn humanity about its demise so that she can continue living among them.

I think the music video adds credence to this theory too, especially during the ending, when humans dance in a carefree way around Poppy, standing grimly in the center, a spotlight shining on her. She’s a part of the celebration, sure, but also she’s apart from it as well, gleaming, celebrated, but not really dancing with the rest of them. Maybe she wants to join in, but she knows getting close would be silly?

The song itself is nice too, though I wouldn’t call it a favorite. I like Diplo’s beats well enough, and I think with his contribution this track has an unmistakable Daft Punk quality to it, though I can’t say it lives up to that particular standard. I like the spacey, distant sound of it as a whole, though, really fits the message, even if my added interpretation wasn’t the real intention of the song, and it was truly meant to be a song about a robot killing off humanity because she’ll outlive it.

Aristocrat ft. Garibay

Though this was not the point of this post, it’s unfortunately difficult to talk about Poppy without also mentioning the abuse allegations leveled at her producer, Titanic Sinclair. I’m inclined to believe these accusations, and though it definitely does change the way I look at Poppy’s music, I still believe it’s possible to appreciate Poppy while also acknowledging the role this cruel man plays in her music.

That all being said… it does make it easier when the album brings a new producer on board for this track. And it may be the “hatred of abusers” talking, but I think Garibay does a much better job with Poppy’s voice than Titanic Sinclair usually does. It kinda makes me long for a possible future where Poppy still gets to make her cool music without her disgusting producer but… alas, I’m not sure that’ll happen.

It’s interesting how human Poppy sounds in this. And the less-artificial sounding vocals alongside the catchy Latin beat makes this song infectious. But the differences aren’t so much that it doesn’t feel like a Poppy song, either. The parts of the song where Poppy puts on an exaggerated aristocratic tone of voice sounds like the Poppy we’ve come to know.

Plus, the lyrics are really clever and full of excellent rhyme schemes and puns. I love the idea of a formerly impoverished girl bragging about how she’s clawed her way to the top. And considering what we’ve seen what this album so far, I can’t help but see it as a bit of an allegory for a little-known YouTube musician clawing her way into the public consciousness.

Though I don’t think I would say I want Poppy to drop her pop android persona, it’s refreshing to hear something a little different.

Hard Feelings

So I told you about the Titanic Sinclair lawsuit in the last song because…. oh boy, this song.

You know, even as Poppy herself defended Titanic Sinclair, and denied the accusations, this song makes me wonder if that was truly how she felt about the situation. A song where she wonders if she was created only to replace someone her creator loved before… how can you not make the connection to how Mars Argo accused the Poppy persona of being a direct copy of her act?

Plus, this song is also produced by Fernando Garibay, like the last one. I really do think the note of humanity his production adds to Poppy’s sound is an incredibly effective part of this album. Putting aside all the real life implications of this song, it also connects to the mental crisis Poppy’s character is going through. She wonders – if she is truly meant to always be an android, how can she feel resentful toward her creator?

I also enjoy the call-outs to Poppy’s previous character quirks, specifically the “porcelain skin” line. It feels a lot like the unearthly perfection Poppy’s character has always possessed in previous songs, especially “Bleach Blonde Baby.” This Poppy is questioning everything about her character before, and it really explains what makes this album so much different than what we’ve heard from her before.

Girls in Bikinis

We’ve gone through quite a bit of existential crisis up to this point, but we’ve finally settled back into what Poppy started out this album doing – criticizing entertainment. Whew.

I have a real soft spot for this song. The emotionless way Poppy lists off images of sexual appeal all too familiar to most of us really calls to mind some sort of mindless entertainment executive listing off all the images they think will attract the most buyers.

But Poppy seems to question this, throwing in a “Dear lord, what’s next?” and even saying she wants to see “Boys in bikinis too.”

It’s a silly, fun little song, and actually one of my favorites. If not for it’s depth, for the infectiousness of it, that bouncy electronic sound and Poppy’s interesting sounding vocals. It’s a solid entry on an album I’m already heavily sold on at this point, so no complaints here.

The Rapture Ball

There’s a great intensity to this track that I really enjoy. It’s a staple of this album at this point to contrast Poppy’s high, light vocals with heavy electronic beats, but this song is particularly fun in just how hard it goes with that concept.

This track actually reminds me quite a bit of a few tracks off of Gorillaz’ “Humanz” (which I reviewed here), which has several tracks that, like this one, puts scenes of luxury and partying against images of the end of the world. Unlike the earlier Daft Punk comparison, though, I think Poppy lives up to the allure of that album, from the seductive sound of her vocals to the sudden build of the chorus.

This sounds like a song that would be incredible to dance to, and of course that must be the point.

Am I a Girl?

Here’s another thing that surprised me about this album. I was not expecting to see Poppy question her gender identity in song form.

Yes, you heard me right. While this song does obviously ask this question as an android wondering if she is human, it also takes it from the direction of an android wondering what the definitions of “girl” and “boy” even are, and whether possessing traits from both ends of the binary make her something in between.

What I think is kind of cool about this song, though, is the solution it comes to. Instead of characterizing her confusion over gender as a problem, she feels that trying to call herself one or the other is the thing that’s over-complicating the situation. She seems to argue that if she were just left to identify somewhere in between, she wouldn’t have this confusion.

It’s refreshing to see, and not a message I was expecting. Plus, I love that big guitar riff toward the end. Get ready, that’s not the last of the loud guitar we’ll see in this album.

Play Destroy ft. Grimes

I’ll be honest, when I first heard about this album coming out, and I went to its Spotify to give it a listen, I had every intention to start at the beginning and listen all the way through. That’s how I try to first listen to any album, as it’s how the artist intended it to be listened to, and all.

But then I peeked down the song list and saw that GRIMES was on this track. GRIMES!!!!!

Hello, Grimes. Are you finally coming back to music after having your fun dating horrible capitalist monsters? Please tell me you are. Please? I miss you. I love you.

But oh my god. This song is my favorite off the album. It destroyed my life. The combination of Poppy and Grimes was something I’ve never thought of, but now that I’ve heard it I’m convinced it’s all I’ve ever wanted in this life.

What’s so incredible about this song is that it toes a very fine line between being a Poppy song and being a Grimes song. I mean, it totally sounds like it could have come straight off of “Artangels,” but it’s got a bunch of Poppy touches that we’ve seen throughout this album. It’s almost like this entire album was built just to get Poppy’s sound to a state where she could take a cut song from “Artangels,” perform it, and we’d all be convinced it’s a Poppy song.

I’m mostly joking, but even if that were true I wouldn’t mind. This song is good enough that it justifies that.

It’s just… ugh, it’s so good. It’s obviously meant to critique how entertainment makes violence seem fun, but it also works played completely straight as these two cutesy characters taking a sadistic glee in destroying everything around them. I think that’s the beauty of this album as a whole. Even though the commentary on the entertainment industry is clear, it still feels legitimate. Like Poppy, for all her knowledge of and disdain for all the little ways entertainment fools and takes advantage of us, she still wants to play along.

She still wants to be human, despite what we humans do.

God, that’s brilliant.

X

“Ooh! Heavy!”

But if you thought Poppy threw down the gauntlet in the last song, you ain’t heard nothing yet.

You know, Poppy’s doing metal now, and after everything I’ve just heard, I’m really not even surprised. You’ve done it, Poppy. You’ve made me accept you even when you’re doing metal. If that doesn’t make this album a success, I don’t know what does.

It’s this song that really convinces me that this album as a whole is Poppy’s character questioning everything about herself. The very structure of this song is at war with itself, the soft, 70s pop verses conflicting with the violent lyrics, heavy guitar, and screaming of the chorus. It’s Poppy attempting to reconcile the squeaky clean, beautiful nature of her pop android character with her desires to be flawed and angry and emotional and human.

Ugh, it’s such a fantastic way to end this album. Poppy longs to go back to where she began, but after all we’ve heard, we know she can’t go back. Perhaps that’s the most human thing she expresses throughout this whole album – regret.

“Am I a Girl?” is just a fantastic and surprising entry onto Poppy’s discography, and it fills me with excitement for where she’ll be going next. I’m definitely going to be coming back to many of the tracks here for months and months to come.

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Surprise! – “The Now Now” Review

Remember that time, just over a year ago, when I thought that “Humanz” was gonna be the last Gorillaz album? Remember that? When I continuously defended it to the weirdly many detractors I came in contact with because it was one of my favorite bands in the world coming together with lots of other artists to comment on the state of the world in a bunch of beautiful, genre-bending tracks? And I wrote a whole review on it thinking it was gonna be the last one ever?

Oh… well… uh… Gorillaz is back now. I guess “Humanz” wasn’t their last album, huh? Surprise!

I’m joking around a little, but gosh was I not expecting this album as fast as it came. Well actually, I wasn’t expecting this album at all, but here we are! I wanna do “The Now Now” the same justice I gave “Humanz,” but as I sit here writing this intro, I don’t feel like I have the same sort of emotional investment in this album as I did the last one. I’m not at all saying it’s a bad album – it’s great. But the fact it came so quickly and was accepted so easily into the fanbase makes it seem so much less of a big deal than “Humanz” was.

So, anyway, I’m gonna do my best here because I love Gorillaz, and I feel… complicated about this album. I apologize in advance, because while this review starts out pretty run-of-the-mill, it kinda gets weird toward the end. I wanna reiterate that I don’t think this is a bad album, and yet… it really disappointed me in a way I have trouble voicing throughout the post. I hope you enjoy anyway.

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It Takes Effort – “Tranquility Base Hotel and Casino” Review

I originally had a different idea for this week’s post, but after I realized that Arctic Monkeys’ new album “Tranquility Base Hotel and Casino” was going to be released this week, I dropped everything to write a review of it.

This is Arctic Monkeys’ first album since their 2013 hit “AM.” I was introduced to the band by that album, like many people were, charmed by their swagger-filled alt rock sound behind the crooning, smooth vocals of lead singer Alex Turner. “AM,” I think, is a fantastic primer to the band’s work, accessible, catchy, and instantly understandable. I love “AM.”

This album is not “AM,” though.

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At Last – “Humanz” Review

It’s a good time to be a music fan. Fall Out Boy is pushing their new album, “Mania”… Walk the Moon is back in the studio… and the band that taught me how to love music finally released a new album.

It’s been seven years since Gorillaz last released an album, and in that seven years I had more or less lost all hope of ever seeing them again. I’ve definitely mentioned how important they were to me in my formative years before, but it’s worth restating. It was in a car listening to Feel Good Inc. when I decided to ask my dad why there were people cackling maniacally in the background. My dad had no idea, but he did know that the band was made up of cartoon characters, which was the CRAZIEST THING EVER to my small brain. I went home and immediately looked them up.

Several days of Wikipedia and Youtube surfing later, I was a dedicated fan. I familiarized myself with the lore and fell in love with the fictional 2D, Noodle, and Russel. (I wasn’t too fond of Murdoc. I’m still not.) And there was something about them… maybe it was their off-kilter style, something different than what I usually heard on the radio. Maybe it was Damon Albarn’s characteristic mumble that drove me to take pride in figuring out the lyrics and their meanings. Maybe it was the fact they were the first band that was all my own, something I discovered for myself and enjoyed on my own terms. Either way, Gorillaz has stuck with me for years.

And then, “Humanz” came out. And I’ll be honest… I was a little worried. It’s always hard when something you loved as a kid comes back. Nostalgia can really change the way you view something. I figured there was no way this new album could ever rival the band I fell in love with when I was younger and full of wonder. And, yeah, I was right. My first listen through of this album didn’t excite me except when it reminded me of “Demon Days”, which is my favorite album of theirs.

But then, I kept listening to it. And I gave it a chance on it’s own. And I realized… “Humanz” is really good. It’s really, really good. Its got a voice all it’s own, but it also really stays tuned to some of the things that made Gorillaz really great. I’ll talk about this specifically for each track, but if you hear people putting this album down for not living up to the hype, don’t listen to them. This album deserves to stand on its own.

Also, I wanted to address two other major criticisms I’ve seen floating around around this album. One, that it’s too feature-heavy. To that, I’d argue that Gorillaz has always been a collaboration. None of the members are actually real, and the only consistent contributor music-wise is Damon Albarn. So to say a Gorillaz album is too feature heavy… I mean, dude, just go listen to Blur or something. Plus, Damon/2D gets lots of great parts on this album!! In almost every song!! Chill!!

Second, that it’s too political. Which… ugh. I don’t even really want to argue against this point, because it’s idiotic. Gorillaz has always been political. ALWAYS. They’ve done songs about gun control, about urban decay, about the dumbing-down of media… hell, their entire last ALBUM was about global warming! It was called “Plastic Beach”! What else would it be talking about?

Too political… god. The complete idiocy…

Uh… where was I? Oh yeah, Gorillaz! “Humanz”! The new album! I’m sorry, I’ll actually get to the review. What follows is a quick little track-by-track review. I skipped the interludes because they’re mainly just quick flavor or sly little statements, and there’s not much for me to say about them. (But, The Non-Conformist Oath is hilarious and I adore it, and I can’t help but give it a shoutout)

(((But, hey, if you’re not super familiar with Gorillaz yet, that’s cool! Before I dive into the new album, why not take a look at some of their old stuff too? It’s all really good. There’s of course their three hits, Feel Good Inc., Dare, and Clint Eastwood. They all deserve their popularity, of course (I love Dare with every fiber of my being, and of course Feel Good Inc. was the song that started it all for me), but I’ll just give you a quick little list of my other favorites in case you’re interested: The SwaggaEl Manana, Broken, Empire Ants (***MY FOREVER FAVORITE***), To Binge, and 19-2000 (Soulchild Remix).)))

Ascension (Feat. Vince Staples)

“Ascension” is a deep, scathing commentary on the state of police violence in America. It’s angry, it’s desperate. And… that’s all I feel I can really say about it. See, firstly, this song is very rap-heavy. Gorillaz has always had a pretty solid rap presence, but I’m not the most knowledgeable about rap. I enjoy this song, but I don’t feel like I have the language or knowledge to criticize it. Plus, it’s not made for me. I’m a white girl living in an affluent society, and Vince Staples is a young black man who has had to deal with racism, hatred, ignorance, and violence I will never have to deal with.

For that reason, this song is worth listening to, and reading in on the lyrics. But as far as my own personal commentary goes, there’s not much I can (or should) say.

Strobelite (Feat. Peven Everett)

Now we get into the songs I actually feel capable speaking about. (Well, mostly.) “Strobelite” is an upbeat, funky little number about the unpredictability of life. So dance!!!

Jokes aside, this song (and really most of this album) is surprisingly hopeful despite its heavy focus on the end of the world. It’s borne of a world where things are going really bad, yet people feel the need to cling to hope and keep fighting. It’s a message I really appreciate from this album, and something I found myself resonating with again and again.

Shoutout to Peven Everett, who adds his really gorgeous vocals to this track. Vocal-wise, I also really like the subtle backup singers.

Saturnz Barz (Feat. Popcaan)

Before I say anything else, I wanted to talk for a second about how much I like the “z” motif in this album. HumanZ, SaturnZ BarZ, MomentZ, etc. etc… it’s a cute little nod to their name, and I love cute things like this. I’m possibly overthinking this, but what if it’s also a reference to the end of the world this album is so focused on? Z is the last letter of the alphabet, and this album is about the last gasps of humanity, joyous or no, before the end of the world… Yeah, I’m definitely overthinking this.

“Saturnz Barz” is a real auditory shoutout to the sound of “Demon Days”, and for that reason it’s like a familiar friend to me. If you’re an old fan of Gorillaz, this is a good track to hop back on board with, since I think it pays homage to their old style while also having a certain unique polish they’ve picked up through “Plastic Beach”.

The tone is somber and slow, and possibly even a little creepy. (I mean, after all, the music video features a haunted house.) Plus, 2D’s part is so gorgeous and subtle, adding to the ethereal quality of this track, like it’s pensive. And while Gorillaz certainly isn’t a stranger to reggae, it’s always a nice style to hear from them.

Momentz (Feat. De La Soul)

Speaking of shoutouts… I know I said I wanted to give this album a chance to stand on its own… but it’s De La Soul! You know, De La Soul, those guys from Feel Good Inc.! They’re back! And once more they’re here to make you dance.

This song has a great beat and I mean… what else does it really need to have? It’s got that swagger-y “I’m the best” type of lyrics and it just makes you feel good.

The ending is somewhat confusing, I’ll be honest. If you had told me that an upbeat party song where De La Soul returned to chill with Gorillaz again, I would not have guessed it would end with a tongue-in-cheek KKK joke… but hey, this album is full of surprises??? I’m all for belittling a white supremacist terrorist group, of course.

Submission (Feat. Danny Brown and Kelela)

Rather unsurprisingly, my favorite Gorillaz member has always been Noodle. For that reason, whenever “Noodle” takes over the vocals of a track, I’m instantly in love. “Submission” is the latest in a long and prestigious line of Noodle songs. Kelala’s voice is smooth and pleasant, and although Little Dragon will always and forever be my favorite Noodle, she holds the mantle really well.

This song is sad and pensive, but never loses a certain drive. It grabs you from the very beginning with the gorgeous vocals and keeps you along with it with the subtle electronic instrumentals. It’s not a large or bombastic song by any means, but it leaves a lasting impression. Probably one of my favorites off this album, for sure.

The rap part… kind of threw me off though. The somber, powerful tone felt kind of thrown off by Danny Brown’s unusual pronunciation in his rap bridge. But, you know, I’ve listened to it a bunch of times now, and I think I’ve grown used to it.

(At least he’s not Shaun Ryder in “Dare”)

Charger (Feat. Grace Jones)

This is a super weird song. And yet… I really enjoy it? I’m unclear on what exactly this song means, but I’m fairly used to Gorillaz’s lyrics being puzzling so that’s not too horrible. I could make a guess that this song is about the all-encompassing effects of technology on our lives… but that’s a guess.

It’s one of those Gorillaz songs that makes you really confused on the first listen, intrigued on the second, and absolutely hooked on the third. It’s relatively simple, mostly just a guitar riff, some electronic noises, and 2D’s and Grace Jones’s vocals echoing off of one another. The lyrics certainly don’t reveal anything about why this song exists, and yet, it works. It fits, as a catchy, oddball little track.

Andromeda (Feat. D.R.A.M.)

This is a really cool song. Has a nice, fast, walking beat, and a pretty strong focus on 2D’s vocals. I know I talked earlier about how much I appreciate the featured vocalists, but I’ll always love 2D, and it’s nice to see him prominently featured here. I think it’s a great song to match his subdued, smooth tone.

The instrumentals focus on an atmospheric tone, to match the astronomical title, and it’s a sound that just really works for Gorillaz. They’ve done clean electronica, dirty rock, reggae, rap, hip-hop, and even beach-side tunes… but once more they’ve found a new style to fit their music seamlessly into. A style I’d best describe as futuristic? Stellar? Who knows, words are hard.

(I also just really like the background vocals. But then, I always do.)

Busted and Blue

And finally we’ve arrived to the single, solitary Gorillaz-only track on this entire album. And god, is it ever beautiful.

It’s quiet, and features nocturnal sound effects, as well as some sort of strange beeping sound that could be a rusty windmill or an alien spaceship… and beyond that it’s up to 2D’s quiet vocals, the backup singers (always killing it), and some minimal instrumentation to carry the listener through.

I can’t help but read into the choice of having the one non-featured track be this slow, wistful ballad. I’m not sure whether it’s confirmed that this album will be the last for Gorillaz, but if it is, I’ll feel satisfied, I think. This band has had such an incredible impact on my life, and this album, while standing on its own, is also a beautiful homage to everything I love about Gorillaz. The collaboration, the bold political statements, the slightly off-kilter music, the odd and memorable lyrics… and I think “Busted and Blue” is a poignant illustration, at least to me, of all this band has done for me.

Carnival (Feat. Anthony Hamilton)

I’ve been pretty complimentary of most of the other tracks on this album so far, but don’t worry, there are some duds coming, this one included. Okay, fine, this one isn’t bad so much that it is forgettable for me. The hook is kind of uninspired and Anthony Hamilton is just alright. There’s nothing here for me, to be honest. Skip!

Let Me Out (Feat. Mavis Staples and Pusha T)

I first heard this song performed on the Late Show with Stephen Colbert, and I was honestly a little disappointed hearing it on the album. I felt like a lot of the raw power and emotion from the live performance was absent from the album version. I’m gonna assume this is just the sort of song that is better performed and enjoyed live! There’s nothing wrong with that at all, and it doesn’t take away from the powerful lyrics and delivery.

Sex Murder Party (Feat. Jamie Principle and Zebra Katz)

Another weird song, but this one didn’t work quite as well for me as “Charger” did. I think it’s mostly that I didn’t really get it I guess? It’s kind of catchy, but I’m not really sure what the point of having this song stuck in my head would be? It’s mostly just the title whispered over some drum beats. It also feels a little too “trying to be edgy” for me, which is not something I usually feel about Gorillaz. 2D has a nice enough part, I guess, but he’s had better parts in other tracks on this very same album. Forgettable. Skip!

She’s My Collar (Feat. Kali Uchis)

Hey, don’t worry, we’re back to tracks I really like. So nice of this album to arrange all of my duds into a little group like that so they don’t detract too badly from the rest.

2D gets some fast-paced, clever lyrics in this song, and next to the upbeat and and catchy hook, this is the sort of song I could see as a minor radio hit. I also really like Kali Uchis! Her voice has the same kind of sleepy quality as 2D, but with a clear and loud tone that makes her stand out from him as well. I’m also a big fan of the bouncy little 8-bit noises in the background. Too fun.

Hallelujah Money (Feat. Benjamin Clementine)

Ahh, “Hallelujah Money”. The first real listen I ever got to this album was when they dropped this song. The excitement of opening up YouTube to listen to a new Gorillaz song for the first time in seven years…

And yeah, this song is weird. But it’s also such a powerful criticism of the culture of the rich that dominates politics nowadays that the more you begin to understand the lyrics, the more Benjamin Clementine’s wandering, wavery tone starts to change from strange to beautiful. It’s a call to arms, a rallying cry against the corrupting power of money. I’m also crazy about the way 2D’s “When the morning comes / How will we know we are still human?” weaves in with the rest of the song, like an overarching question, asked again and again. It’s a question that is never truly answered, not by the song itself, but the next song is probably one of the reasons I love this album so much…

We Got the Power (Feat. Jehnny Beth)

And the answer to 2D’s repeated question from the last track comes in this unabashedly optimistic track about the power of unity and togetherness when faced with seemingly insurmountable odds. I’m so happy this song exists. Much of this album struggles with despair as the world around it seems to crumble, to end, and yet this is the song that the album ends with! (Well, the non-deluxe version, that is).

And this song preaches unity. Optimism. Believing that with hard work and perseverance, things can turn out alright in the end. And really, that’s an idea worth singing about.

Is it naive? No, I don’t think so. I think “Humanz” isn’t copping out in answering its gloomy questions with this rallying cry, rather, giving the only answer that has a chance to fix anything. We can talk about how the world is burning all we want and it doesn’t do a thing to extinguish the flames. No, the answer is to get up, join forces, and put it out ourselves. We got the power. It’s inspirational, it’s beautiful, and it’s the perfect ending to this album’s philosophical questions.

The Apprentice (Feat. Rag’n’Bone Man, Zebra Katz, and RAY BLK)

And so begins the five bonus tracks available on the deluxe version of this album. I’ll be honest, I raised an eyebrow at Rag’n’Bone Man being on this track, but it actually really works. I’ll be honest that I’m not too impressed with his song, “Human”, but his appearance on “HumanZ” is pretty enjoyable. (Haha, see what I did there?)

The best way to describe this song is “clean”, I think. It’s really catchy, too, probably one that will get some repeats on my playlists. Beyond that, though, I don’t have much to say about this one. It’s a strong, likable track.

Halfway to the Halfway House (Feat. Peven Everett)

Hey, who is this Peven Everett guy? I’m serious, I really like him. “Strobelite” is beautiful and so is this song. This is my own note to self that I need to go check him out, for sure. I love how this track constantly seems to build on itself, and how the discordant noises in the background play with the beautiful choral harmonies. This song has a really gospel feeling to it.

And mostly because I was curious as to why this song sings about “Cherryade” so much, I went and looked it up, and it turns out it’s a reference to the phrase “drinking the kool-aid”, meaning going along with a doomed or obviously dangerous plan. It’s a pleasant little statement on the status of our society, everyone going along with something that is clearly doomed. In that vein, the “Halfway House” mentioned in the title refers to a place after prison where those with physical, mental, or emotional disabilities go for rehabilitation. I can’t decide whether being “halfway” to a place of rehabilitation is a positive statement or not… I suppose that’s up to the listener to decide.

Out of Body (Feat. Kilo Kish, Zebra Katz, and Imani Vonshá)

If you ever thought to yourself “I wonder which track off of this album is Gillian’s favorite?” congratulations, we’ve made it. I’m honestly kind of obsessed with this song. It’s simultaneously a fun party song and also a weird thematic track and that combination just tickles me.

I really like Kilo Kish’s vocals. They fit the weirdly mysterious tone of this song while also keeping up the fun danceable beat. I’ve seen a lot of people compare her to That Poppy, and yeah, I love That Poppy. Plus, shoutout to 2D! His vocals are really fun in this one too.

I love the framing of the seance being related to a party. I’ve heard millions of party songs but I’ve yet to hear it believably and cleverly related to some sort of supernatural ritual, and it’s amusing and clever. I think this song just really encompasses what I love about Gorillaz – they’re unafraid to take on tons of musical genres and make them completely unique and fascinating. This is a typical party dance song, and yet it’s made unique by the interesting supernatural motif and the way it seems to question itself, and the usual “who cares let’s party” mentality of most songs of its ilk (“Where am I going? What am I doing?”)

Also… I can’t stop listening to this song. It’s in my head constantly. Help.

Ticker Tape (Feat. Carly Simon and Kali Uchis)

“Ticker Tape” is a really traditional Gorillaz song, with a heavy focus on 2D’s vocals. I’m a big fan of this one for it’s smooth, slow sound. I like the simple role Carly Simon’s vocals play, and the touch of complexity in the outro as Kali Uchis’ vocals overlay 2D’s.

This song mainly concerns itself with technological progress and the possible negative effects it has on society. I feel generally iffy about this sort of commentary, because I believe a lot of these social statements blame the younger generations and call them brainwashed. I think this criticism is completely useless because it takes the blame completely off of older generations who are also just as responsible for abusing technology. That’s not the whole reason I dislike this sentiment, but it’s a big one, I guess. Thankfully, this song doesn’t fall into that trap and instead focuses on media’s integration into technology and how easy it is to remain inactive in our modern age. That’s the sort of criticism I can get behind – specific and not pointing fingers.

Circle of Friendz (Feat. Brandon Markell Holmes)

The last track off of the deluxe version! We’ve climbed this whole mountain together, haven’t we.

I like how the discordance of the breaking glass and sounds of destruction in the beginning with the repetition of the lyrics “circle of friends” is… surprisingly earnest, actually. Similar to “We Got the Power”, this song doesn’t really seem ironic about its insistence that with teamwork any problem can be overcome.  It’s a short track, and really repetitive, but seems to drive home the point I made earlier about “Hallelujah Money” and “We Got the Power” that this album is ultimately optimistic about the state of society. Even as it critiques where we are and compares it to the end of the world, it isn’t bleak. And at risk of repeating what I’ve already said, I really appreciate that. This song isn’t really a great one on its own, but as a wrap-up for this album, it works.

Overall, I love “Humanz”. I know a lot of people were disappointed, but honestly that’s not too surprising to me. Gorillaz could have churned out the most flawless album in the world and people would still be upset. After all, it’s been seven years since we’ve seen them last, and that sort of a gap makes the nostalgia wall difficult to scale. Personally, I think it’s a worthy successor to “Plastic Beach” and has reignited my love for this band. For real, I’ve spent a lot of time rediscovering all of my old favorite Gorillaz songs thanks to this album, and that alone is enough for me to give two thumbs up to it.

So, whether you’re a Gorillaz fan or not, I strongly advise you overall to check this album out. It’s solid, it has a great message and motif, and it’s just a lot of fun. Or, you know, check some of their older stuff out too. Fall in love with them the same way I did so long ago, I promise, it’s fun.