Though Gorillaz' fifth album Humanz isn't due out until the end of April, we already know it promises to be a very guest-heavy LP, with Damon Albarn sharing vocal duties with (or relinquishing them completely to) Benjamin Clementine, Popcaan, Vince Staples, Savages' Jehnny Beth, D.R.A.M., and most recently, Pusha T and Mavis Staples.
It takes a certain kind of sensitivity as a songwriter to be able to step back from your work and say "I'm not the right person to sing this song." You can find much of that self-awareness in the British musician's output with the virtual group he and Jamie Hewlett created in 1998 . Not only is Albarn skilled in recruiting vocalists with defined voices and personalities, he also knows just how to deploy them in his music to sustain particular moods, and to get across certain ideas or themes. Whether it be grime, trip-hop, or soul, here's our ranking of the 20 best guest vocalists to appear on a Gorillaz song, and how they bring the cartoon band to life.
1. Del The Funkee Homosapien - "Clint Eastwood," "Rock The House"
As the lead single from 2001's Gorillaz, "Clint Eastwood" was the first taste we had of Albarn's Blur side project, leveraging Del The Funkee Homosapien as the voice of Russell possessed to help define the group's hip-hop-meets-Brit-pop sound. His performance set the bar for the kind of energy and personality any subsequent guest vocalist had to bring to a Gorillaz song, and hasn't been topped since.
2. Shaun Ryder - "DARE"
While most of the melodic heavy lifting in "DARE" is courtesy of Rosie Wilson, Happy Mondays' Shaun Ryder is left to do his own thing, and colours outside the lines with a brash, in-your-face performance. His dopey, almost out-of-time delivery is a strong counterpoint to the song's glittery, lithe beat.
Read the full list at Thump.