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Album Review: Cee-Lo Green – The Lady Killer



As a founder of groundbreaking southern rap group the Goodie Mob, a sometimes solo artist and half of the singer/DJ duo Gnarls Barkley (of “Crazy” fame), Cee-Lo Green has always hung out in a space just outside the mainstream. The eclectic soul singer has even expanded this alternative positioning in recent months, with his massive viral hit “Fuck You”and his bracing cover of Americana group Band of Horses’ “No One’s Gonna Love You.”

With The Lady Killer, Green goes further in bringing his brand of quirky neo-soul to whatever masses—be it pop, hip-hop, alternative or soul fans—are open to it, than ever before. The album is a concept piece to some degree, recounting Cee-Lo’s struggles and victories in courting women and love at various stages. Love, lust and the dissolution of relationships are covered through the album’s 14 cuts.

Early standout “Bright Lights Bigger City” opens the show with a riff on the pop and R&B of the big 80s, all epic synthesizers and horns over a sauntering baseline, surely meant as a tribute to Michael Jackson’s “Billie Jean.” While the production is contemporary, if you close your eyes, you can almost see the neons and pastels of Crockett and Tubbs era Miami.

For those who’ve been living under a virtual rock, “Fuck You” is a joyous kiss-off song that even your mother could love, if it weren’t for all the @$#%* profanity. Don’t bother with the PG edit; the song is limp without the four letter affronts.

While Cee-Lo dedicates much of the album to sincere love songs like the Jeffrey Osborne reminiscent “Wildflower” and the timeless sounding, first-dance-ready “Old Fashioned,” he also dips into his freakier side a bit. The funereal “Bodies” is an uncomfortably ambiguous tune that, at first listen, seems to be about a serial killer perpetrating his crime against an innocent lover. Likely though, as the sexual sighs and imagery reveal, he only put her purity to death.

Despite a multitude of producers, The Lady Killer has a cohesive feel and excellent sequencing. Green’s voice is in fine form, and though possibly an acquired taste to some, one of the best in contemporary music. If there’s a deficiency to be found with this collection, perhaps it’s a lack of more up-tempo material, though the varying styles keep things from approaching monotony.

Tossing doo-wop, new wave, rock, soul, indie and blues into a blender with all his own peculiarities, Cee-Lo has created a near masterpiece of pop music. He’s managed to fuse retro, contemporary and futuristic approaches into a completely unforced sound that maintains his idiosyncrasies without sacrificing broad appeal. Though the record is full of potential singles, it’s also, more importantly, a fully realized album meant to soundtrack your next road trip or laid back Saturday evening party.

Green is an alt-soul genius occupying his own (though ever-growing) niche, and luckily for us he seems to like it that way.

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