The idea of the virtual band has been around longer than you might think. The first virtual band, believe it or not, was Alvin and the Chipmunks. Alvin and the Chipmunks may seem like they are just characters that have nothing to do with the real world (and they are) but they created the idea of a virtual band. The chipmunks aren’t really singing but they have Ross Bagdasarian singing their lines and projecting it as the chipmunk group. In a virtual band the music is created in reality by real people but it is projected as characters. Some artists which dabbled in virtual artistry include,
- The Archies
- Major Lazer
- Crazy Frog
- Eiffel 65 (I’m Blue – Zorotl)
This brings us to the main topic of discussion, the Gorillaz. The Gorillaz were formed originally by Jamie Hewlett and Damon Albarn. The group had four primary animated members to represent them including Noodle, Russel Hobbs, Murddoc Nichols, and 2-D. This virtual band was formed in 1998. The group was originally started as a joke to make a comment on the low substance of the MTV TV channel. The band was much more tolerable than the high-pitched squeaks of Alvin and the Chipmunks which perhaps led to a greater success in the music industry.
I have been a fan of the Gorillaz myself for a long time. I first learned of the abilities of the Gorillaz through their videogame they created where one would race around an open area to the beat of 19-2000, one of their original songs. The game was simple but the exciting nature and fantastic beat kept me playing for hours on end. The car had each of the four members included in the car and it was a strong marketing scheme, well at least for attracting me at a young age. This type of advertisement is interesting, it gets a different crowd than would the typical music videos of common artists. Kids and adults pulled in by the huge amounts of music videos developing the four characters as well as some few games. This strategy new and alternative has not taken off. Gorillaz has done well however.
Early in their years the Gorillaz earned the Q award and MTV award for their videos and music. In 2005 “Feel good Inc.” won best special effects and breakthrough video. “Feel good Inc.” also won a Grammy for Best Pop Collaboration with Vocals Most recently, after nine nominations, the Gorillaz received best British group in 2018. It seems ironic that the very group that started as a joke to make fun of the uselessness of the MTV TV show became so popular with MTV awards. Seems they pranked themselves in the end, both MTV and Gorillaz.
The Gorillaz have done well for a virtual band, perhaps paving the road for more bands to join this fad that could potentially grab the new artists. We haven’t seen this genre pop up massively however. Is this the last hurrah of the idea or will we have more virtual artists pop up as it becomes easier for us to create. Heck nowadays just using your phone you can send a virtual representation of your own face through text message with little to no work.
The Gorillaz are still existing after all these years This is due to the bands ability to change artists over the years due to its flexibility of cast. People could come and go as the characters stayed stagnant. The artists which have collaborated cover an interesting field, they don’t just come from an alternative-electro-rock. Over the years the collaborators have included, Danger Mouse, Snoop Dogg, Mos Def, Massive Attack, LCD Soundsystem. The main creators of the music have also changed. This creates a new sounds and a very variable focuses of music.
Unfortunately, this variability can cause fans to lose attraction. I myself loved some of their early albums. Snoop Dogg collaborating certainly did some good in putting Gorillaz in the light. Their sounds seems to have switched to more of a hazey-alternative electro style of music and split off from their more rock like routes. I myself will still follow them and hope that they eventually pump out some music of my liking, that’s the benefit of changing so much, they can easily change it up again in a direction which may pull back a basis similar to my own.
The Gorillaz have had an idea of creating this virtual band and they have done it successfully but can they go further than video games and music video characters? The band has difficulties in being able to use their developed characters in live performances. They have to pull people in with their presentations and inventive music styles. They could create a concert type experience with holograms but most technology used for creating large enough holograms to be seen would be too affected by the loud noise. This barrier has not stopped the Gorillaz.
Pulling in attention with their virtual band is not the only thing they have done to get traction. This band has also shown a political side which had not used to be as pronounced. They put out an album called “Plastic Beach” which showed their obvious concern with the destruction of Earth’s ecosystems, specifically the ocean. Their 2017 album, Humanz, was supposed to be a nightmarish projection of Trump as president. They didn’t think a man with so much fame should be able to take even more of an attention giving position. Their song “Kids with Guns” on the album Demon Days displays the troubling nature of gun availability. Using their political views has certainly gained some popularity for Gorillaz. Even if it is not music I enjoy as much, I am glad they are still doing what they do, creating music.
References and Further Readings