The Gorillaz are one of those bands that have managed to find enormous success by staying on the periphery of a few different genres of music. While they have continued to release music albeit at a slow pace, they are most remembered for their 2005 effort, Demon Days.
This was an album that’s tracks continue to get air time all the way in 2016. There are quite a few things to learn from this album’s timeless qualities.
1. Collaboration without banking off of success
Demon Days features a lot of collaborative efforts with different DJ’s and MC’s alike. With acts such as De La Soul offering vocal tracks and Danger Mouse laying down beats, it’s hard to imagine that this album wouldn’t advertise its features, but it doesn’t. You have to look hard at the track listing’s fine print to see who worked on what song, and it works for them.
The Gorillaz didn’t bank off of the success of their featured artists, and instead they chose to make the album a unified effort with all tracks getting the same amount of love and attention from the band. Instead of just remembering a single with a rapper you like, the album as a whole gets remembered.
2. Mixing genres
As stated above, The Gorillaz have found success staying of the edges of a couple of genres. In fact, depending on how your local record store chooses to organize its music, you can find Demon Days under rock, rap, or hip-hop because the album is all three.
The band does a great job at melding the sounds of guitar and drums to the produced beat of a hip-hop song. Damon Albarn’s soft, alternative rock vocals mix incredibly well with De La Soul’s hard, in-your-face rap style. By refusing to fall into a niche, The Gorillaz have managed to find fans from a lot of different genres.
3. Creating a mythology
This is more indicative of The Gorillaz as a whole as opposed to being true for just Demon Days. The Gorillaz are what they call a virtual band, in that there are animated characters that are more The Gorillaz than the actual people making the music. The band then puts these characters in the crafted narrative of the album and sends them on a journey. Watching the music videos for Feel Good Inc. and El Manana, you can see the continuity that went into making the mythology of Demon Days.
By having this ongoing mythology, this ongoing story with these characters, the band becomes eternal in a way, and the album becomes a chapter in the story of The Gorillaz.
The Gorillaz are a unique case study in that no one has ever tried to emulate what they have done for their entire career. For good reason, no one can be The Gorillaz except for themselves. That being said, there are some things to learn from them.
Collaborating not because of the success of others, but for making the best album you can make is a good start. Mixing genres in a way that doesn’t feel forced is better. Crafting a musical narrative is a great way to unify your music and you album as a whole. So instead of having a single in an otherwise forgotten album, you’ll have a whole musical experience, and that always seemed more worth it.
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Anthony Mauro is a San Francisco State graduate who splits his time between the Bay Area and San Diego. He spends his free time thinking long hair is cool, playing video games for an online audience, and writing short stories, comic books, and novels.