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Cee Lo Green “The Lady Killer” Review

Published in Blog Archive, Culture Bully. Tags: , .

Goodie 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.

As the songs continue to flow, Cee Lo seemingly becomes increasingly comfortable vocally; comfortable and confident. The up-tempo flow of “Wildflower” is contrasted by the sharp thumping bass and sexy strings of “Love Gun”; a track which also features Lauren Bennett of the Paradiso Girls. “Satisfied” rolls through its three and a half minutes far too quickly as a female chorus accompanies Cee Lo in heavily annunciating their verses (a la 1950′s girl groups), before the horn-based soul of “I Want You” and the snappy “Cry Baby” play out.

“Fool For You” adds another element of unexpected excitement as Earth, Wind & Fire’s Philip Baily joins in on the track; Cee Lo further drives home his style with a mean, funky tone. Positivity flows as “It’s OK” passes by, leading up to two of the album’s most important songs. The aptly titled “Old Fashioned” coasts along as it gently romanticizes a the sound of a generation gone by. “It’s right on time (right on time), and it’s timeless (timeless)/It will be right here for always.” Regardless of who you are, where you’re from, what music you were raised with, or what music you listen to yourself, “Old Fashioned” is crafted to draw an emotional response from the listener that carries with it a sense of genuine warmth. What follows is Cee Lo’s stunning cover of Band of Horses‘ “No One’s Gonna Love You,” a track that translates as far more touching emotionally despite being built with a similarly comforting musical base. The two tracks bring the album to a close as they lead into “The Lady Killer Theme” outro which bookends the LP nicely.

For those who are familiar with the man’s work, The Lady Killer is hardly about to change your perspective of what Cee Lo’s capable of. His range is extensive, his ingenuity is plentiful, and his creativity is daunting—again, if you knew Cee Lo before The Lady Killer, this is all likely old news to you. But one of the more interesting aspects of the solo album—Cee Lo’s third, and first since 2004′s Cee Lo Green… Is the Soul Machine—is that it’s poised to once again rejuvenate the vocalist’s perpetually acclaimed career. Over the past decade you’d be hard pressed to find a moment when Cee Lo wasn’t succeeding, and this last statement isn’t meant to imply that he’s on his way back up after a period of downtime. Rather, it’s simply to suggest that Cee Lo Green is again doing something that so many artists have failed to do: take their talents in a new direction by expanding their range. Just as he did with his two Gnarls Barkley albums, as well as the many that came before it, Cee Lo has once again proven his multi-dimensional approach to music to be in a class of its own.