U.K.-Born Gorillaz Ride Stateside Success
"Planet of the Apes" isn't the only simian-based artistic endeavor that's been making noise this summer. Parlophone/Virgin act Gorillaz have been steadily climbing the charts since their eponymous deb"Planet of the Apes" isn't the only simian-based artistic endeavor that's been making noise this summer. Parlophone/Virgin act Gorillaz have been steadily climbing the charts since their eponymous debut was released 10 weeks ago (June 19). After debuting at No. 39, "Gorillaz" jumps 21-14 on The Billboard 200 this week -- and it shows no signs of slowing down.
Gorillaz is the brainchild of Blur frontman Damon Albarn and "Tank Girl" creator Jamie Hewlett. It's an animated quartet (Noodle, Murdoc, 2-D, and Russell) that, visually, exists only in a virtual world, which may be visited at gorillaz.com. Albarn's various collaborations with Dan the Automator and members of Buena Vista Social Club, Cibo Matto, Tom Tom Club, and other acts provide the group's soundtrack.
Albarn says the project was the result of he and Hewlett "reaching a point in our lives where we were both 30 and really wanted to inject some kind of new impetus into our whole reason for doing what we do."
After achieving success abroad via U.K.-based Parlophone, the project was brought stateside by Virgin.
"We thought that the animation would be a central part of it, because it is so dynamic and well-executed," Virgin president Ray Cooper says. "But it wouldn't work unless the music was there as well. With the construction of both the music and the visuals being so truly original, there is nothing to compete with it in the marketplace.
According to Tom Calderone, senior VP of music and talent for MTV, the video for first single "Clint Eastwood" spoke for itself. "We loved the creative and artistic approach the video took. It has a great story and the 'Thriller' angle was great."
The "Clint Eastwood" clip was featured in the network's "Buzzworthy" and "MTV 360" campaigns, before crossing over to heavy rotation on MTV. The clip was also nominated for the first-ever MTV2 award at the 2001 MTV Video Music Awards.
"We truly felt that [Gorillaz] would appeal to our audience," Calderone says. "Even those who may not be fans of Blur will love this."
According to some retailers, there was heavy word-of-mouth building on the project -- thanks, in part, to the album's international success.
"We had a buzz happening long before the album's domestic release," says Vince Szydlowski, VP of product for the Los Angeles-based Virgin Megastores chain. "Being a U.K. brand, having an album from a supergroup that features members of Blur, Morcheeba, and Dr. Octagon -- the hype prior to release was pretty big. We sold 5,000 units prior to the U.S. release. The album hasn't left our top-5 since its U.S. debut."
The future of the Gorillaz project looks bright, with the possibility of live shows and animated specials on the horizon.