Cee Lo Green - The Lady Killer
by Donny Kutzbach
Cee Lo Green
The Lady Killer
“My name is…not important. I’m often asked: ‘What do I do for a living,’ and I answer ‘I do what I want.’”
Mr. Green, though his tongue is planted firmly in cheek in the intro track of his album, as he explains about his license to kill the ladies, hits on something here. Green has become one of pop’s most distinguished voices thanks to his work, with cohort Brian “Dangermouse” Burton, as Gnarls Barkley—a project that willfully eschews identity, contexts, and genre constraints. From his start in dirty south hip-hop stalwarts Goodie Mob to singing ubiquitous, chart-topping pop hits: Here is a man who certainly does what he wants.
Cee-Lo might be setting a specific tone for his latest set, but history shows he is also just telling it like it is. With his first proper solo release since the Gnarls Barkley global takeover, Green enlists a host of producers for a record that leans on Motown and Huff/Gamble sensibilities and traditions, with the panache to deliver “give it all you got” soul while twisting it all through modern sheen and polish. “Bright Lights, Bigger City” matches new wave synth to a “Billie Jean” bass line as Green sings about the ultimate weekend in an eclectic pop-funk tour de force. The spare and spooky “Bodies” certainly deals directly in literal “lady killing,” and the bravado-laced “Love Gun” finds the narrator deep into the track with a decidedly cool swagger.
Beyond those sparks, the notion of Cee Lo Green as lady killer certainly veers toward irony. The real story is a man luckless and let down in love.The irrepressible first single “F*ck You”—which became an instant viral sensation upon being unleashed online back in August—is a brutally frank kissoff aimed at an ex-lover, belied by its bubbly, infectious hooks. “Fool For You,” featuring silky-voiced Earth Wind and Fire icon Phillip Bailey, is a testifying and pleading confessional. Like “F*ck You,” the slyly ebullient, Smokey and the Miracles-esque “It’s OK” proves a wrenching recap of the women that went away but haunt the memory, while the downbeat Stax feel of “Old Fashioned” is the perfect backdrop for heartache Green pours out. Lady Killer is a masterful exercise in soul music past, present and future and yet another high point for the ever-evolving Mr. Green.
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