Review : Cee-Lo Green - The Lady Killer
PopmattersOne of those rare miracles of pop music that graces us from time to time, Cee-Lo Green’s joyous “Fuck You” hit the ground running upon its late-summer release this year with a momentum that is staggering even in this instant access, Internet-meme age. A word-of-mouth hit even with a title, chorus, and several key lyrics that cannot be aired on radio or MTV, “Fuck You” has vaulted such possibly-no-longer-existent boundaries (Pitchfork’s Ryan Dombal rather astutely referred to the song as “post-censorship”, a demonstration the old media guard’s circa 2010 irrelevance) to inspire, in its brief history, a William Shatner rendition, an impending (though inevitably watered-down) Glee cover (by Gwyneth Paltrow), and perhaps the only release date bump in recent memory that wasn’t inspired by an early album leak, but rather good old fashioned demand. Even the radio edit, titled “Forget You”, though hardly a reasonable substitute for the true version, exists as part of the song’s sly subversion of what currently constitutes censor-worthy language—its cleaned-up chorus basically exists solely for listeners to belt the proper “fuck you!” lyric overtop of.
Still, the relevance, however playful, of “Fuck You” as a readymade cultural artifact need not detract from its sheer brilliance as a pop song. Critics were right to jump on the comparisons to Outkast’s “Hey Ya” immediately, as “Fuck You” similarly screams instant classic not simply for its deceptive novelty appeal (“Hey Ya” was a rather pained ode to divorce and generational shifts on romantic expectations, remember), but for simply how good it feels. Even minus the shout-along chorus, the song is constructed out of almost non-stop hooks, from its Motown piano intro to the hip geekery of “I guess he’s an Xbox and I’m more Atari”, the hilariously mocking call-and-response backing vocals (including a winking riff on Kanye’s “Gold Digger”), and the cartoon-soul wails of “whhhhhhyyy!” towards the end. As an angry kiss-off to an ex and her new beau, it might be the most warmly empathetic ever recorded, even gracious in key moments (“With a pain in my chest I still wish you the best”), an attempted lashing out that its singer quickly realizes he really hasn’t the heart for, resorting to playground taunts as a good humored mask for temporary inner turmoil. As presented here, Cee-Lo’s register as the cuddliest “fuck you”s ever uttered....full text
CulturebullyGoodie Mob notwithstanding, Cee Lo Green was introduced to many a mainstream music listener through the universal success of Gnarls Barkley‘s “Crazy” in 2006. His soulful voice acted as the perfect complement to Danger Mouse‘s production, and the duo made the most of their new-found fame by touring the globe and gaining a vast fan base while supporting St. Elsewhere. A second Gnarls Barkley album and numerous collaborations later, Cee Lo (born Thomas Callaway) returned to the mainstream conscious this past summer with the viral success of the music video for “Fuck You,” a track which also serves as the first single from his new album The Lady Killer. And just as “Crazy” did, the song (largely due to its radio-friendly version, “Forget You”) has once again introduced the veteran to a whole new group of eyes and ears. Perhaps The Lady Killer isn’t the best album Green’s ever released, and it’s quite possible that any number of songs he’s written and recorded will live on far longer than those found on the album. But one thing that is hard to dispute is the timelessness that resonates throughout every last track, a characteristic of Cee Lo’s that is often overshadowed by his incredible style, but one that is no more apparent than it is here. But unlike much of his past work, The Lady Killer is intentionally timeless; it’s crafted to reflect a sound from the past while maintaining a flair for prevailing musical trends. Well, with one exception that is: throughout The Lady Killer, the slightest shred of autotune is nowhere to be found.
Opening with “The Lady Killer Theme,” the mood is quickly set with what sounds like a soundtrack to a caper or heist scene from an old television series. Fading away, the intro bleeds into an updated funk that sounds wholly suited for Michael Jackson; had the legendary vocalist still been alive to hear it, one can only imagine how much he’d enjoy the track. All at once “Bright Lights, Bigger City” looks to the past, reflecting a “Beat It”-aesthetic while blasting a strong pop-synth line that echoes a modern sound just as it does ’80s funk. The aforementioned “Fuck You” follows with its momentous rhythm assisted by Bruno Mars and his Smeezingtons production crew. Like “Fuck You,” the entire album is full of strong production from a diverse supporting cast including Fraser Smith (who has worked extensively with the likes of Kano and Tinchy Stryder who arose from the UK’s grime scene), Paul Epworth (who has worked with the likes of the Rapture and Bloc Party, while recently manning the board behind Florence and the Machine‘s breakout hit “Rabbit Heart”), Salaam Remi (who produced some seminal ’90s hip hop tracks including Ini Kamoze’s “Here Comes the Hotstepper” and the Fugees’ “Fu-Gee-La”), and Jack Splash, who along with Cee Lo comprise the Heart Attack....full text
NmeThough not until very recently a household name, Cee-Lo’s voice has filled the cars, clubs and front rooms of millions thanks to the inescapable success of Gnarls Barkley’s ‘Crazy’ in 2006. But his overlooked solo career has largely been a footnote, despite the critical praise received by his 2002 debut, ‘Cee-Lo Green And His Perfect Imperfections’. Its wild, so-far-out-of-the-box-it’s-still-in-the-warehouse mix of psych, soul, hip-hop, jazz and rock sprawled well over an hour and scared both the public and Cee Lo’s then-label Jive alike. When its 2004 follow-up ‘…Is The Soul Machine’ suffered the same sales-to-praise disparity, label and artist bade farewell.
But then Cee-Lo’s always worked best in the shadows. While his contemporaries Outkast pushed boundaries and received plaudits thanks to their ear for a pop hook, Cee-Lo was busy in the sidelines working on some ‘Dirty South’ music with Goodie Mob (of which he was ?a member from 1995-98). In the process, he not only helped name ?an aspect of his and Outkast’s idiosyncratic style of Atlanta, Georgia hip-pop, but coined the term that would define the late ’90s and early ’00s: southern hip-hop, where Timbaland/Missy Elliott, Outkast and N.E.R.D/Neptunes became the region’s first global success stories.
‘Crazy’ aside, it’s taken over 20 years for Cee-Lo to come up with a true solo hit that ruled the charts. As anyone with access to YouTube will know, it appears that all he needed was a soulful voice and repeated swearing set to a jaunty tune. The resulting ‘Fuck You’ to an ex-girlfriend and her new lover is a kiss-off song in the best tradition; and the biggest pop hit the South’s had since Outkast’s ‘Hey Ya!’....full text
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