In 2001, Gorillaz’ took the world by storm with their self-titled debut. This virtual band saw some real success on college radio from the get-go, reaching No. 2 on the CMJ charts. But this isn’t where the story begins. While the Jamie Hewlett animated characters of the Gorillaz may seem to exist in their own dimension, to really understand their history with college radio we have to zoom out and look back at Damon Albarn.

Albarn has had his hands in a multitude of projects over the years, some in a very visible way—as the lead singer of Blur and in recent years with his own solo projects. Albarn’s discography also includes film soundtracks, multiple collaborative albums, as well as a whole list of production credits.

While Blur was big in the U.K. from the start, it took them a lot longer to really catch on in the U.S. and in college radio. While their early records did land in the top 20 on college radio, it wasn’t until 1997 that Blur hit their first and only college radio No. 1 with their self-titled fifth album.

CMJ Chart For The Week Of May 12, 1997

1 Blur Blur Food
2 Polara C’est La Vie Interscope
3 Chemical Brothers Dig Your Own Hole Virgin
4 Morphine Like Swimming DreamWorks
5 Sleater-Kinney Dig Me Out Kill Rock Stars
6 Daft Punk Homework Virgin
7 Atari Teenage Riot Burn, Berlin, Burn! Grand Royal
8 Bettie Serveert Dust Bunnies Beggars Banquet
9 Dinosaur Jr. Hand It Over Blanco Y Negro
10 Matthew Sweet Blue Sky On Mars Zoo
11 Ben Folds Five Whatever And ever Amen 550
12 Pavement Brighten The Corners Matador
13 Palace Music Lost Blues And Other Songs Drag City
14 Papas Fritas Helioself Minty Fresh
15 Folk Implosion Dare To Be Surprised Communion
16 That Dog Retreat From The Sun Geffen
17 GusGus Polydistortion 4AD
18 Helium No Guitars [EP] Matador
19 Ani DiFranco Living In Clip Righteous Babe
20 Sea And Cake The Fawn Thrill Jockey

Gorillaz, on the other hand, saw more immediate success in college radio. Even though it wasn’t until their third album, Plastic Beach (2010), that they hit No. 1, they immediately went to No. 2 with their debut, and matched that success with their follow-up album, Demon Days, as well in 2005.

CMJ Chart For The Week Of March 23, 2010

1 6 GORILLAZ Plastic Beach Virgin
2 1 HOT CHIP One Life Stand Astralwerks
3 2 YEASAYER ODD BLOOD Secretly Canadian
4 5 JOANNA NEWSOM Have One On Me Drag City
5 11 BROKEN BELLS Broken Bells Columbia
7 4 SPOON Transference Merge
8 7 LOCAL NATIVES Gorilla Manor Frenchkiss
9 18 LIARS Sisterworld Mute
11 12 RUBY SUNS Fight Softly SUB POP
12 24 TED LEO AND THE PHARMACISTS The Brutalist Bricks Matador
13 9 SHOUT OUT LOUDS Work Merge
14 14 PHANTOGRAM Eyelid Movies Barsuk
15 25 FRIGHTENED RABBIT The Winter Of Mixed Drinks Fat Cat
16 20 XIU XIU Dear God, I Hate Myself Kill Rock Stars
17 16 MUMFORD AND SONS Sigh No More Glassnote
18 10 MASSIVE ATTACK Heligoland Virgin
19 13 JOHNNY CASH American VI: Ain’t No Grave Lost Highway
20 22 ROGUE WAVE Permalight Brushfire

After rumors that both Blur and Gorillaz were done, Albarn released his first proper solo album, Everyday Robots, which peaked at No. 5 on May 20, 2014. But now Blur is back and having another go at college radio next week with The Magic Whip.

Blur concert poster, May 1, 2015

Blur concert poster, May 1, 2015