“Let’s make a party record about the world going fucking nuts.”
That’s how Gorillaz frontman Damon Albarn described Humanz during an interview with Q Magazine earlier this month. The legendary band of way-too-many qualifiers (virtual/animated/rap-rock-electronic fusion) dropped their long-awaited fifth album today, and if we’re to think of the release as an apocalyptic blowout, then holy shit — everyone showed up. The insane guest list includes Grace Jones, Vince Staples, Kelela, De La Soul, and Pusha T. Also invited? Colombian R&B darling Kali Uchis, who brought her throaty sweetness to two tracks.
Uchis delivers syrupy background vocals on the languid, Carly Simon-assisted synth ballad “Ticker Tape” — a brief and blithe break in the party. But her real contribution is on the ominous dark groove of “She’s My Collar,” an angsty Bonnie and Clyde declaration that is vintage enigmatic-meets-sultry Gorillaz. Her spine-tingling timbre is the perfect antidote to anxious synths and Albarn’s hushed-and-rushed whispers. While you can hear the sound of someone desperately out of breath throughout the song, Uchis is unfazed. She’s slow, lustful, and raspy as she draws out her verse and winds her way through the track’s nocturnal vibe.
In an interview with Radar Radio last month, Uchis said that she’s been a fan of Gorillaz since she was a teenager — she even had her first kiss to “Demon Days.” She met drummer and Gorillaz collaborator Remi Kabaka by chance, and he passed her song “Loner” to Albarn, making the admiration reciprocal. Albarn later included Uchis on a SoundCloud mix of female artists who had inspired Humanz.
“In search of new sounds and new inspiration, I found these kickass women who in their own individual ways are true pioneers in the writing, production, and creation of MUSIC,” Albarn wrote on SoundCloud. “They have inspired me, and I hope they inspire you too.”
Humanz is out today.