Elton John has been an animating presence in our lives for more than half a century. But on Thursday (Oct. 1), he literally gets drawn anew in his touching collaboration with Gorillaz and 6Lack in the latest episode of the cartoon band’s Song Machine project. The track, “The Pink Phantom,” is a melancholy ballad that opens with Damon Albarn’s 2D character at the piano lamenting a lover who’s left him behind during the summer.
6Lack’s AutoTuned vocals then slide in, with sad-eyed lines wondering if his lover ever really cared, followed by a list of all the good times he thought they’d had. And then comes John, looking resplendent in the animated video in a pink suit with glittery shades and a piano emblazoned with his sparkly initials.
“I tried to get to Atlanta, on a peach blossom highway/ I’m trying to put these puzzles out of mind,” John sings over the gently thumping beat. “In a sky made of diamonds/ Where the world fell silent/ I’ll be waiting for you on the outside.” The fluid, mildly psychedelic song is enhanced by illustrator Jamie Hewlett’s typically fantastical imagery, including a pink, top hat-wearing ghost, John in a slick roadster and a trippy segment in the middle where the screen bursts into a colorful kaleidoscope.
“Damon reached out and asked me to do something and the way the song has turned out is just great,” said John in a statement. “I was in the studio in London and he was at the other end in Devon, but even remotely it was such an engaging and creative process. I’ve always loved Damon because he encompasses so many different sorts of music. He has his fingers in so many pies and although he’s achieved so much, he never sits still creatively. He’s constantly pushing forward and embracing the new, which is admirable and rare. … I’ve always been a Gorillaz fan anyway, so when he asked me to do a Gorillaz track — it was a no brainer. I’m so very, very happy that that’s come about.”
The full 11-track Song Machine: Season One album is out on Oct. 23, featuring songs with The Cure’s Robert Smith (“Strange Timez”), Beck (“The Valley of the Pagans”), ScHoolboy Q (“Pac-Man”), St. Vincent (“Chalk Tablet Towers”), Peter Hook and Georgia (“Aries”), Octavian (“Friday 13th”), Slowthai and Slaves (“Momentary Bliss”), among others.
“Thank you for being so generous to us, Mr. Elton Sir John, with your time and genius and also those Danish pastries you brought and for making some of the best tunes of all time,” 2D added in the statement. Gorillaz will host a “Song Machine Live” global streaming event on Dec. 12 and 13, the group’s only live performance of 2020; information is available here.
Watch “The Pink Phantom” video below.