Gorillaz is a pretty tough band to put in a box. This group continues to change and evolve musically over time. They experiment with different styles and don’t feel tied to any one form of music.
That said, if you asked me, “What genre is Gorillaz?” I would say hip-hop and alternative rock. Those are probably the major influences that keep coming back in their music.
They also produce music that can be classified as trip hop, electronica, world music, and art rock. So, basically, they’re a group that’s all over the place. And that’s a good thing!
Who Is Gorillaz?
Let’s not even try to beat around the bush. Gorillaz is not your normal band, if we can even call them a band at all. Instead, it might be safer to call Gorillaz a project. This project got started in 1998 when two artists joined forces to create something weird, wonderful, and new.
Damon Albarn was the lead singer and songwriter for the rock/Brit-pop band, Blur, which had some major hits in the 90s like “Parklife,” “Girls & Boys,” “Tender,” and “Beetlebum.” This band was huge in the UK, winning awards, holding massive sold-out concerts, and producing eight albums.
The other half of the creative duo behind Gorillaz is Jamie Hewlett. Hewlett is a visual artist best known for his distinctive, edgy style that was showcased in the comic “Tank Girl,” which was also made into a feature film.
A unique band…
In 1998, these two different artists moved in together to share a flat (that’s an apartment in the UK, champ!) and had a decidedly odd idea.
After watching hours of MTV and finding it to be a cycle of disconnected and shallow band advertising, they came up with the idea for a virtual band. This was to be a group of cartoon characters created by Hewlett that played music created by Albarn.
In 2000, Gorillaz put out their first self-titled EP, which was mostly an alternative rock-based work. The project was well-received, and the next year they released their first full-length album, also called Gorillaz.
This album went to #3 in the UK and #14 in the US, selling over seven million copies worldwide. And so, for the first time in history, except for maybe Alvin and The Chipmunks, a virtual band was getting credit for hit songs and records.
Who Is Gorillaz, Supposedly?
So, the idea behind Gorillaz is that they are a band consisting of four members, all of which are cartoons. But, this story is a lot more in-depth than The Chipmunks. Each member has an extended backstory, voice, and personality, all their own.
Murdoc Faust Niccals (bass)
Murdoc is the bassist and self-styled leader of Gorillaz. He grew up rough and tough. He also allegedly sold his soul to the devil to become a rock star, and even plays on a bass guitar he got from Satan himself, called El Diablo.
Murdoc has a temper and a wild streak which has led him to run from the law, relocate to Tijuana, be incarcerated, commit arson, and much more. He also seems to be jealous of 2-D’s status as the frontman of the group.
Stuart Pott/2-D (vocals, keyboards)
Described as a “sweetheart with a blank sheet of paper where a brain should be,” 2-D is an ideal pretty boy singer. However, singer and keyboardist 2-D’s life has been filled with accidents.
As a youth, he had a head injury which made his hair fall out and then grow back blue. He has also had numerous run-ins with Murdoc leading to eye and head injuries that also gave him his nickname, 2-D, which is short for “two dents.”
While Murdoc claims he recruited 2-D to Gorillaz, 2-D says it was more like a kidnapping. 2-D provides most of the lead vocals on their songs and has also contributed songwriting, especially on The Now Now.
Noodle (guitar, vocals)
The guitarist for Gorillaz is a child prodigy from Japan. She was recruited to the band after the original guitarist, Paula Cracker, was caught up in, let’s say, illicit activity with the other band members.
Noodle can noodle with the best of them and also provides vocals and some songwriting for the group. Now in her 30s, she has grown up and matured despite, or perhaps because of, the chaos around her created by the other members of Gorillaz.
Russel Hobbs (drums, percussion)
The final member of Gorillaz is Brooklyn native Russel Hobbs. However, Russel is more than just a single member of the band.
Having experienced paranormal activity as a child, this drummer has been possessed by multiple spirits, including friends and musicians. He also left the group for a time and was replaced temporarily by a drum machine.
Russel is the member who communicates with other artists, both living and dead, and has brought in numerous collaborators to work with Gorillaz, in addition to his duties on drums and percussion.
This is a band that moves and changes with the times. Musically, they grow, evolve, and experiment. They also collaborate with a huge range of other musicians, and this is another strong influence on their music.
So, if we want an answer to the question, “What genre is Gorillaz?” we might be best to break down their body of work album by album.
The band’s first full-length album was dropped in 2001 and contained the singles “Clint Eastwood,” “Tomorrow Comes Today,” and “Rock the House.”
This album was a hit that propelled Gorillaz into the limelight. It sold over seven million copies and also introduced the band through a huge amount of video play.
Style-wise, this album was a real mash-up. It had all sorts of influences and sounds that include alternative rock, pop, dub, low-fi, trip-hop, hip-hop, and more. It also featured collaborations with Del the Ghost Rapper (voiced by Del the Funky Homosapien), reinforcing Gorillaz’s hip-hop sound.
The 2005 sophomore follow-up to Gorillaz was an opportunity to bring hip-hop into a mix of dark pop and rock music.
You can hear a huge hip-hop influence on this album, thanks in large part to collaborations with guest artists like De La Soul, Neneh Cherry, MF Doom, and Root Manueva, among others.
Once again, the Gorillaz had hit singles with “Feel Good Inc.“, “Dare,” “Dirty Harry,” and “Kids With Guns/El Manana.” And this album was the group’s second in a row to go platinum.
The success of Demon Days proved that Gorillaz was more than just a gimmick group. And while Plastic Beach wasn’t nearly as successful as the band’s first two records, it allowed them to continue to develop as artists and still hit #1 in several countries, including the US and UK.
By this point, it seems like everyone wanted to collaborate with Gorillaz. There is a huge hip-hop focus on this record stemming from collaborations with Mos Def, Snoop Dogg, and De La Soul.
But, there are also pop, punk, and electronic sounds to be found here as well. On this album, we find Lou Reed, Little Dragon, Hypnotic Brass Ensemble, Mick Jones, and Phil Simonon of the Clash contributing.
Gorillaz’s 2010 album was written entirely on the road while Albarn was on an American tour. It’s very stripped down and has a lot less production than any previous Gorillaz album. The focus here is more on rock and dark pop and uses fewer instruments and collaborations than in earlier albums.
After The Fall, creators Albarn and Hewlett had a falling out, and it looked like Gorillaz may have been through. However, after a long hiatus, they reunited, and the band did, too. Featuring a grown-up Noodle and a recently exorcized Russel Hobbs.
The 2017 Humanz album is a dark fantasy record but with some memorable bright notes. Again, lots of collaborators joined the Gorillaz on this record, from De La Soul to Kali Uchis to the legendary Grace Jones.
And once again, this album crosses styles and genres from rock to pop to electronica and, of course, hip-hop.
The Now Now
The rumor is that The Now Now was written entirely by 2-D while Murdoc was incarcerated. You can see a different songwriting point of view here, which betrays 2-D’s softer side. These are mostly simple and upbeat songs.
The style is somewhere between rock and pop with 80s New Wave (almost punk) influences. They also used only a few collaborators here, including just George Benson, Jamia Principle, and Snoop Dogg.
Song Machine, Season One: Strange Timez
The most recent Gorillaz album isn’t an album at all. Instead, the group decided to release a track every month in the form of an episode in different online audio and video formats.
This collection of Gorillaz songs ranges across multiple genres and features lots of collaborators, probably because of Murdoc’s influence upon his return to the group.
There’s a great mix of alt-rock, pop, hip-hop, and electronica here. But, you can also hear punk rock, acid house, reggae, R&B, and funk peppered in as well. Truly varied artists featured here include Elton John, Octavian, Robert Smith, Beck, St. Vincent, Fatoumata Diawara, and Schoolboy Q.
Like Learning About Musicians and Songs?
We can help with that. Take a look at our detailed articles on What Genre are The Beatles, What Genre is Nirvana, the Frank Sinatra Genre, the Best Fleetwood Mac Songs, the Best Kanye West Songs of All Time, and the Best Seether Songs of All Time for more great song selections.
You’ll need to listen to all the music in the best possible quality. So, check out our in-depth reviews of the Best Sound Quality Earbuds, the Best iPhone Earbuds, the Best Bass Earbuds, the Best Headphones for Music, the Most Comfortable Headphones, and the Best Headphones Under $200 you can buy in 2023.
What Genre is Gorillaz? – Conclusion
With output spanning four decades and a list of songs and collaborators a mile long, it’s pretty much impossible to nail down the Gorillaz style of music. That is because their style is genre-bending.
They’ve mixed the four lead characters of the band with stars from hip-hop, pop, rock, electronic, and world music genres. This has produced hit albums and memorable tracks in every style from hip-hop, trip-hop, electro-pop, alternative rock, punk, and so many other styles.
This is a band that loves music and sees beyond categories to simply create new songs. They love to constantly reinvent themselves. I don’t know about you, but I can’t wait to see what they’re going to do over the next decade.
Until next time, happy listening.