Gorillaz protest against political power
“In these dark times, we need someone to look up to. Me. That’s why I’m giving you this new Gorillaz song, a lightning bolt of truth in a black night. You’re welcome. Now p*ss on! The new album’s not gonna write itself.” – Murdoc Niccals
The bassist of the virtual band, Gorillaz, announced their comeback through their first musical release in five years. Following a cryptic social media campaign spanning over several months, ‘Hallelujah Money’ protests against the current global political atmosphere, particularly nodding to America’s recent decision of welcoming fascist tyrant, Donald Trump, to serve a term at America’s White House.
With the vast increase of anti-Trump protests, if there was ever a time to speak up, it is now. His new presidential policies arouse negative principles of racism, sexism, homophobia, and xenophobia, and suggest that we are living in a regressive political climate.
Dystopian fiction has seen a rise in sales as a result of this, including sales of Nineteen Eighty-Four increasing by 6,000%. The Thought Police in Orwell’s novel permits a fitting parallel to the promotion of “fake news” that Trump encourages, unacceptable behaviour within a democratic society.
Gorillaz are no strangers to infusing their music with political perspective. Their B-side single ‘Kids with Guns’ discusses school shootings and lack of gun control, ‘Dirty Harry’ echoes the war in Iraq, and their 2010 album ‘Plastic Beach’ is a political commentary on pollution and humans destroying the environment. This new song offers a more direct, explicit attack, released just a day before Trump’s inauguration.
Littered with various visuals, the music video to ‘Hallelujah Money’ parallels the politically charged lyrics by Damon Albarn and Mercury Prize Winner, Benjamin Clementine. Directed by Giorgio Testi, he includes images of the autocratic pigs from Animal Farm, a clip from a killer clown prank, and shows La Candelaria Brotherhood in Spain.
The song paired with this collage of images provides a profound apocalyptic contemplation of the state of today’s humanity. The end of the video shows a clip from the SpongeBob SquarePants episode ‘Karate Choppers’, where Mr Krabs tells SpongeBob “You’re fired”, the catchphrase that Donald Trump uses on The Apprentice. Clementine is filmed in a replica of an elevator in Trump tower. As the title suggests, the song explores themes of power, the influence of big corporation on politics, and humankind.
Clementine, co-writer of the track with Albarn, recites his spine-chilling reflection of the world’s current political climate, dominated by big businesses. There is severity in this message despite the use of silly cartoon footage. The language of segregation permeates the song, mentioning wall building and highlighting the word’s self-obsession with gain of power “to reap a better day”, evocative of Trump’s “Make America Great Again” promise.
2D provides backing vocals to the track, appearing as a silhouetted puppet that is reminiscent the former Gorillaz days. Albarn’s melancholic vocals question the lack of compassion and love for others: “We are still human / How will we know? / How will be dream? / How will we love?”
The song still adheres to the band’s sound, using a simplistic techno-beat recognisable on many of their tracks. However, this particular song of theirs is very thought provoking.
The gospel choir paired with the ironical lyrics offers a disturbingly poignant portrait of our current state of world politics, reaching out to people to change this societal feeling that is devoid of emotion and collectivity. As always, the band transcends the boundaries of a fixed music genre, playing with elements of RnB, Rock, Hip-Hop, and Blues.
Clementine’s soothing spoken word near the end of the track offers little constructive hope for the political future, echoing the degenerative slump that every anti-Trump supporter recognises: “Don’t worry my friend/If this be the end then so it shall be”. He is a fitting collaborator to break the band’s musical silence, using his rich, poetic vocals inducing listeners into a trance-like state.
It is particularly profound that the band chose to break their silence at this moment in time. This song quite rightly depicts our world society as dystopian and bleak, not even the abrupt use of SpongeBob SquarePants at the end of the video can lighten the global mood of despair.
However, the release of new Gorillaz content is a glimmer of light at the start of a difficult year. This strong musical statement encapsulates this particular moment in time. With the much-awaited reconciliation between co-founders of the band, Albarn and Hewlett, the new album cannot come soon enough.