Gorillaz is one of the weirdest, most wonderful bands ever. Scratch that; they’re one of the best virtual bands ever. This group is made up of a quartet of animated characters voiced and instrumented by a small army of musicians.
They’ve also collaborated with just about everyone who’s anyone in music over more than two decades in the biz.
Being virtual has its benefits…
The band is free to experiment across genres as diverse as Pop, Hip-Hop, Dance, and Electronica. They can change their sound and instrumentation whenever they want.
These are some of the reasons why Gorillaz has been able to put out seven albums and numerous hits over this long time span. So, what are the best Gorillaz songs of all time? Let’s dive in to find out.
- Who Is Gorillaz?
- Top 15 Best Gorillaz Songs of All Time
- Looking for More Spectacular Songs?
- Best Gorillaz Songs of All Time – Final Thoughts
Who Is Gorillaz?
I know this is a bit out of the ordinary. But I feel like we have to clarify who’s who in this anything-but-ordinary band before we can talk about their songs.
Gorillaz is a project started in 1998 by two artists who had recently moved into a shared apartment together. Musician Damon Albarn, who at the time was already massively famous and successful thanks to being the frontman for the Britpop group Blur.
The other half of this duo was a visual artist, Jamie Hewlitt, co-creator of the comic book Tank Girl. That sounds like a pretty odd couple to start a band together.
Don’t worry; it gets odder…
Instead of an actual band with actual musicians, these two creative types chose to create a virtual band. They created characters and attributed the music to them, even creating long and complicated backstories for each of them.
So the core members of the virtual band are Murdoc Faust Niccols on bass, 2-D (aka Stuart Pott) on keyboards and vocals, Noodle on guitar virtuosity and vocals, and Russel Hobbs on drums, percussion, and being dead for a little bit.
Yeah, I know, it’s a little weird. But now that you know who’s involved. Now, we can talk about the best Gorillaz songs of all time in greater detail.
Top 15 Best Gorillaz Songs of All Time
Clint Eastwood (2000)
The first single from their first full-length album is also one of the most memorable Gorillaz songs. The song is “Clint Eastwood,” and it represented something new and different. Not just because of the characters playing the song but because of the music behind it.
Like the self-titled Gorillaz album, it’s from, it was a sort of mash-up of Hip-Hop, Trip-Hop, Lo-Fi, and even a touch of Country. There’s a strange, sort of haunting hook played on the melodica. It goes over a Trip-Hop beat that sounds just like Clint Eastwood ambling slowly into a dusty town.
2-D, voiced by Albarn, sings the memorable chorus in a tired way, “I ain’t happy, I’m feeling glad – I got sunshine in a bag – I’m useless but not for long – The future is coming on.”
But it’s another character who really shines on this track…
The band invited Del the Ghost Rapper (voiced by Del the Funky Homosapien) to lay down some verses on this track, and he does more than that. He pretty much steals the show, but all that did was boost the song’s popularity.
This track sold over seven million copies worldwide and won a Billboard Award, an MTV Music Award, and a Brit Award. Oh yeah, and a Grammy nomination for best rap performance by a duo or group. That’s one heck of a first single. And why it’s one of Gorillaz’s most popular songs.
Tomorrow Comes Today (2000)
This next track was also released on the first serving of Gorillaz we got back in 2001. “Tomorrow Comes Today” also comes from the Gorillaz EP, which was released the year before as well.
This is another song with a Lo-Fi feel…
And a chilled-out Trip-Hop beat that you can really groove to. It also uses a hook played on the melodica but includes casual piano, guitar chords, bass, and cool percussion sounds, as well as synthy strings.
The lead vocals are again sung by Damon Albarn as 2-D, but there are also backing vocals by Noodles. The song tapers off with some lonesome whistling which helps to create even more atmosphere. The overall tone of the song is chilled out and wistful, like a sort of middle-of-the-night waking sleep.
2-D sings, “Yeah, yeah, yeah, I’ll pay (yeah, yeah) – When tomorrow, tomorrow comes today,” and you get an idea of what the song is all about.
Rock the House (2001)
While the previous songs came out on both the Gorillaz EP and debut full-length album, the next track was only included on the album Gorillaz.
“Rock the House” has a much more upbeat feel than the other two songs, and that makes sense. They needed some fun songs on this album to contrast with the more melancholy songs we’ve already seen.
And fun is what you get…
This track has a strange mix of a bright, jazzy feel with an old school Hip-Hop rolled up into a pretty funky track. The drum break is ultra-funky and is just the right tempo for you to “Tap your toes and clap your hands – Come on trace the globe and shake your pants.”
The main music here is a sample from the song “Modesty Blaise” by UK jazz musician John Dankworth. This is echoed by a funky flute backed by a thick bass track.
The track sees the return of Del the Funky Homosapien (in the guise of Del the Ghost Rapper). This time, he’s the only vocalist on the track, and he raps with a distinctly old-school flavor here. It’s fun, funky, and upbeat for a change.
The last track from their debut album that has made our list of the best Gorillaz songs of all time is “19-2000”. This time, we’re looking at nothing but bubbly fun with this bouncy track.
It features 2-D (with Damon Albarn’s voice) singing the verses, while Noodles (voiced by none other than Tina Weymouth of the Talking Heads and Miho Hatori of Cibo Mato) sing the chorus.
“Get the cool – Get the cool shoeshine” is probably one of the most unusual choruses around. But that’s Gorillaz for ya!
The music is bouncy and cute…
It’s a combination of drum loops and funny synth and percussion sounds. It’s all over the place, but it somehow comes together to make something fun and light. As a result, we got one of the funkiest Gorillaz songs ever recorded.
Their debut album was a huge success, and Gorillaz became an almost overnight success. This allowed them to start what would be an endless series of collaborations with artists from all genres of music.
After the 9-11 terrorist attacks on New York, Gorillaz collaborated with D12 on a raw and emotional Hip-Hop track spitting back about these events.
D12 were stranded in London after the attacks and were able to write verses and get into the studio to lay them down right away. Rappers Proof, Bizarre, Mr. Porter, Kuniva, and Swifty McVay laid down verses. Eminem was unable to contribute since he was already back in America.
They attack with vicious lyrics slamming the terrorists and threatening revenge, with bars like “I don’t miss shit – I hit all, whoever that did this – We gonna get y’all.” This is all laid down over a heavy beat with thick bass and lots of strange sounds.
At the end of the song…
The Specials singer, the late and great Terry Hall, sings “We are one – And one is all” over a distinctly Middle-Eastern riff. This seems to represent the mixed feelings that everyone had about this incident. Anger and fear, sure, but also calls for unity and greater compassion worldwide.
Gorillaz went away for a while between 2002 and 2004. The virtual band had broken up, but when Noodles approached 2-D with some new demos she had recorded, they decided to get back into the studio. The result was Demon Days, their second album and one that was again a global success.
“Dare” is a disco-inspired but slightly more chilled-out dance track. It has a great beat you can shake it to and a swirling, dizzying feel to it.
The lead vocals are performed by guest vocalist Shaun Ryder (of Happy Mondays and Black Grape fame). But, Noodles also sings the chorus, this time voiced by singer Rosie Wilson.
There’s not much to the lyrics…
But they’re just fun and light. The chorus is simply an invitation to dance, “You’ve got to press it on you – You just think it – That’s what you do baby – Hold it down there.” Overall, this is a great fun jam, and the video was cool, too. It was even nominated for an NME award for best video in 2006.
Dirty Harry (2005)
If you like Clint Eastwood, you might just go for his alter-ego, “Dirty Harry.” I’m not sure of the connection between Dirty Harry and this song. Unless it’s the lyrics.
“I need a gun to keep myself among – The poor people who are burning in the sun – But they ain’t got a chance – Cuz all I do is dance.” Oddly enough, I can’t recall Clint Eastwood ever dancing. Hanging out with an orangutan, sure. But, dancing?
Anyways, back to the song…
“Dirty Harry,” like most of the Demon Days album, was produced by Danger Mouse and is a lot smoother and slicker than the Gorillaz’s debut. It’s built around a great drum break, funky organ, wah guitar hooks, and synth loops.
While the lead is sung by 2-D, the backing vocals here are performed by the San Fernandez Youth Choir. This provides a great deal of depth to the song. Then, Bootie Brown of The Pharcyde jumps in out of nowhere and lays down some heavy rhymes.
His bars are about war and the effects it has on our society. Lines like “You can’t conceal the hate that consumes you – I’m the reason why you fill up your Isuzu” refer to the Gulf War, which was supposedly “over” already in 2005.
Feel Good Inc. (2005)
The last of the 2005 hits was also the biggest Gorillaz song by far. “Feel Good Inc.” came from Demon Days and was probably the band’s biggest hit ever.
It shot up to the top of the charts in many countries and even earned the band their one and one Grammy Award for Best Pop Collaboration. Without question one of the most successful Gorillaz songs ever released.
But, is this a Pop song?
It’s more of a mix of Hip-Hop with Dance and even Pop-Rock. The track is built around a moderate-tempo rock beat and a funky bassline. Other synth sounds and guitar chords flesh it out, but the vocals are what make this song.
2-D’s verses are typically flattish and tinged with melancholy. But this contrasts perfectly with the rap verses laid down by Posdnuos, Trugoy, and Maseo, aka the legendary Hip-Hop group De La Soul.
Their bars are fun and full of energy. The song is also filled out by their belly laughs which sound variously fun, sarcastic, and malevolent. It all just comes together to make one of the best Gorillaz songs of all time.
On Melancholy Hill (2010)
At first, people thought Gorillaz was a one-off gimmicky music project. When they put out their second album, which was a huge success, a lot of people ate their words.
By the time of their third album…
2010’s Plastic Beach, people everywhere realized that this band wasn’t going anywhere. The members started to think about the world and environmental issues, and these are reflected in this album’s tracks.
“On Melancholy Hill” is one track that takes this apocalyptic attitude seriously. The opening lyrics, “Up on Melancholy Hill – There’s a plastic tree – Are you here with me?” set the tone for the rest of the song.
It’s a spacey, synth Pop tune with an airy and somewhat melancholy feel to it. And at the same time, it’s a soothing Pop moment that can stick in your head.
Do Ya Thing (2012)
Following up on Plastic Beach, the band put out a compilation single with James Murphy, singer of LCD Soundsystem, and Andre 3000 of Outkast fame. This track was organized and sponsored by Converse, who got the artists together.
The song starts with a fast-paced beat reinforced by Albarn on guitar and Murphy on bass. Both sing parts of the song which have great energy. But this energy blows up when Andre 3000 jumps in and starts rapping, which shouldn’t be a surprise to anyone.
His rhymes fill this track up with an energy and speed that is a bit like Outkast’s “B.o.B.” He throws down lines like, “If it ain’t this, it ain’t dope, it don’t flush – And if it ain’t hip, it don’t hop, well then hush.” Classic 3-Stacks. In short, this track truly sizzles.
Saturnz Barz (2017)
After 2010, the band took a long time off. This was in part due to creative differences between Albarn and Hewlitt. But it also had something to do with frontman 2-D being in a shipwreck and getting eaten by a whale, and then getting left stranded on what he thought was a desert island.
Life is complicated…
In 2017, the band reunited and put out the album Humanz. This album was something of a dark fantasy set on earth and beyond. In “Saturnz Barz,” that spacey theme is very played up. The beat here is slow and chilled out. But, the loops and synth sounds that flesh out the music are very spacey.
2-D sings a bit on this track, but it’s mostly given over to guest vocalist Pop can. This Jamaican Dancehall artist brings a very different flavor to this track, and it ends up being a perfect combination.
This next track also comes from the 2017 album Humanz. And, like the previous song, this one also has a sort of space fantasy theme to it.
This time, we’ve got a dance track that’s based around a minimal beat and a thick bass groove. As usual, it’s filled with synth sounds and loops and other weird sounds typical of Gorillaz songs. There are some great backing vocals here, too, that make the track lush and warm.
Albarn, as 2-D, takes the lead on vocals. But, guest vocalist, American rapper DRAM, adds soulful vocals to give this song exactly what it needs to succeed. It’s chill but still has a beat you can get down to. What more do you want in a great Gorillaz song?
With everything back on track, Gorillaz picked up from Humanz with their next album, The Now Now. This album was released in 2018 and once again came with a new sound for the group.
It had more focus on minimalist compositions. And a more chilled-out sound with a mixture of Yacht Rock and New Wave sounds. That said, “Tranz” is one of the most straight-ahead songs on the album.
It has a few twists and turns…
But it’s mostly a bouncy, poppy rocker that’s just a lot of fun. There are guitars and drums here, but it’s mostly keyboards and synths, giving the track a sort of new-wave sound. 2-D (as always, voiced by Albarn) sings lead with his airy, wistful voice.
This is a dance song, but it has some lyrical depth as well. 2-D sings, “Oscillate yourself tonight – When you’re in your bed – Assimilate the dopamine – Passing through your head,” showing some of his best lyrics ever.
Our next track is also off the 2018 album The Now Now. This track was the lead single off that album, and for good reason – it’s incredibly well-produced. It’s full of excellent samples and is just mixed and balanced perfectly. The music is chilled-out but upbeat, at least by Gorillaz standards.
You get a funky beat here with lush bass and synth sounds. There are also lots of backing vocals that swirl around in the background and add tons of dimension and ambiance. The star of the music is the jazzy guitar chords played by Noodles (and mimed by Jack Black in the video for this song).
Albarn as 2-D sings lead and also backing vocals here…
The lyrics refer to a sort of re-birth, or even coming out of hibernation. That’s a bit ironic now, after what happened in 2019-2020. But these lines probably helped a lot of people through lockdowns.
“Calling the world from isolation – ‘Cause right now, that’s the ball where we be chained – And if you’re coming back to find me – You’d better have good aim.”
Cracker Island (2022)
The final song on my list of the best Gorillaz songs ever is also the band’s latest single. This song is none other than “Cracker Island” from the not yet released album of the same name. While the album is scheduled for release in February 2023.
This track came out in June 2023 and has already made waves…
It features a mature Gorillaz playing with special guest artist Thundercat. This track is a funky, disco-dance-inspired jam with a great beat laid down by Russel Hobbs.
Noodles does some funky guitar work on this song which is perfectly complemented by the funkier-than-funky bass line laid down by Thundercat. This bass genius also sings backup on the track to 2-D’s lead. The whole track is thick, lush, and a whole lot of fun, too.
If this is any indication of the quality of the upcoming Cracker Island album, I’d say this band is back and better than ever!
Looking for More Spectacular Songs?
Well, check out our detailed articles on the Best Funk Songs of All Time, the Best Reggae Songs Ever, the Best Hip Hop Songs Of All Time, the Best Songs of The 2000s, and the Top Songs with a LOT of Bass for more incredible song selections.
And you’ll want to listen to them. So, have a look at our in-depth reviews of the Best Headphones for Music, the Best Headphones for Hip-Hop, the Best Headphones For Rock & Metal Music, the Best Bass Earbuds, the Best Sound Quality Earbuds, and the Best iPhone Earbuds you can buy in 2023.
Best Gorillaz Songs of All Time – Final Thoughts
Gorillaz is a band that’s been around for a long time. Starting in 1998, they have had massive success, but also big periods of hiatus that left us wondering if they’d ever come back to making more music.
But the answer, again and again, is yes…
They keep coming back with new and interesting music. And new collaborations which push boundaries. This makes them one of the most interesting groups around today.
The band has changed and matured over time, from their early massive hits like “Clint Eastwood” and “Feel Good Inc.” to the latest single, “Cracker Island.”
Murdoc, Russel, 2-D, and Noodles have grown along with their creators and are set to continue bringing interesting and compelling music into the future. And I can’t wait to add more Gorillaz hit songs to this list.
Until next time, happy listening.