The best Gorillaz collaborations, from Vince Staples to De La Soul (and Shaun Ryder, of course)

The cartoon band's upcoming 'Song Machine: Season One – Strange Timez' features an all-star cast, but they're no strangers to a killer team-up or two

They’re no strangers to a collaboration, and Gorillaz’s forthcoming album ‘Song Machine: Season One – Strange Timez’ features their most glittering cast list yet. Including team-ups with Beck, St. Vincent and Elton John, as well as including previously released tunes with Peter Hook, The Cure and Georgia, it’s sure to be an exciting and eclectic record from the virtual band.

We do have a little while longer to wait for it, though, with ‘Song Machine’ arriving on October 23. As we eagerly await its release, let’s take a trip down memory lane and revisit some of Gorillaz best ever collaborations, shall we?

‘Garage Palace’ featuring Little Simz (2017)

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There’s no way around it – ‘Garage Palace’ absolutely slaps. Taken from the Super Deluxe version of the virtual band’s 2017 album ‘Humanz’ (which features a whopping 14 additional songs), the blistering tune zips along at break-neck speed. Combining urgent pulsing instrumentals with Little Simz’s scorching vocals, it’s a riot.

‘Charger’ featuring Grace Jones (2017)

“I am the ghost,” begins Grace Jones on ‘Charger’, before letting out an intoxicating laugh and adding: “Provocative / That’s what I want”. Provocative is a good way to describe this electrifying cut from ‘Humanz’. Combining IRL frontman Damon Albarn’s lilting vocals with Jones super-charged ones and a roaring guitar riff, it’s an almighty tune.

The final version of ‘Charger’ is the results of Jones ad-libbing over the top of the instrumentals for four hours. Damon then realised that was quite a lot of vocals to fit into three-and-a-half minutes, so noted down all Jones ad-libs on scraps of paper, cut them up, and covered the studio floor with them – then pieced the song together with the parts that he felt worked best.

‘Dare’ featuring Shaun Ryder and Roses Gabor (2005)

This classic Gorillaz smasher from second album ‘Demon Days’ boasts guest vocals from Roses Gabor (at the time going by Rosie Wilson) and Happy Mondays‘ Shaun Ryder. It’s a good example of why you should always be recording, as Ryder’s distinctive vocal line of “It’s coming up, it’s coming up, it’s coming up / It’s dare” allegedly came about when he first put his headphones on in the studio before recording began. He claims he was actually asking the engineer to turn the volume up, commenting “it’s coming up… it’s coming up” as it grew. When it reached his preferred level, he claims, he said, in his distinctive accent, “it’s there”.

‘Feel Good Inc.’ featuring De La Soul (2005)

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Nowadays De La Soul and Gorillaz are long-time collaborators, with the hip-hop trio appearing on 2010’s ‘Plastic Beach (on ‘Superfast Jellyfish’) and ‘Humanz’ (‘Momentz’), but the start of their beautiful musical relationship came back in 2005 with ‘Feel Good Inc.’. One of both groups’ most successful songs ever (it entered charts around the world and won a Grammy), the slick cut of hip-hop infused alt-rock combines dreamy instrumentals with a funk-laced bassline and bouncing vocals from De La Soul.

‘Aries’ featuring Peter Hook and Georgia (2020)

This is part of Gorillaz’s Song Machine video series (where the cartoon band upload tracks from their Kong Studio, they’ve said, “as and when they happen”). For ‘Aries’ they teamed up with New Order’s Peter Hook and dancefloor sensation Georgia. Stuffed full of wistful production, Georgia’s impressive drumming and a strutting bassline courtesy of Hook, it’s a lovely low-key number.

‘Ascension’ featuring Vince Staples (2017)

This jittering, high-octane number from ‘Humanz’ puts Vince Staples scorching vocals front and centre – where they belong.

‘Strange Timez’ featuring Robert Smith (2020)

Ever wondered what you get when you cross Gorillaz with The Cure’s Robert Smith? Wonder no more! The latest instalment of the band’s Song Machine series, it’s a glorious hunk of galloping art-rock – but what’s even better than the song is the accompanying video, which sees the animated band go into space, complete with Robert Smith’s face super-imposed onto satellites and the moon.

‘We Got The Power’ featuring Jehnny Beth (2017)

This jubilant tune from ‘Humanz’ is total euphoria. The stirring celebration of the power individuals can have if we work together boasts triumphant guest vocals from SavagesJehnny Beth (and backing vocals from rapper D.R.A.M. and Noel Gallagher). If you need a song to motivate you through a rotten day – this is it.

‘Clint Eastwood’ featuring Del the Funky Homosapien (2001)

The first single from Gorillaz’s self-titled debut album is a bit of a classic. Named after the actor of the same name (because of the instrumentals sounding similar to the theme music for his seminal Western The Good, The Bad And The Ugly) the verses are rapped by American artist Del the Funky Homosapien. Fusing alt-rock with hip-hop, with flecks of dub for good measure, it was an early indicator of the exciting and innovative collaborative songs the group were set to create. And they haven’t looked back since.

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