For an artist with so many hit records and singles, Cee Lo Green is a name that has only recently become ingrained in the public’s consciousness. Known to some for his work as a founding member of hip hop group Goodie Mob, to others for his collaboration with DJ Danger Mouse in Gnarls Barkley, and to everyone else for the ridiculously popular ‘Fuck You’ (aka ‘Forget You’, it’s neutered brother), Cee Lo’s voice has been gracing our clubs, radios and YouTubes for a good long while now. We’re now 8 albums into Green’s expansive, 20-year career, and so it comes as no surprise that with all of this experience his new album The Lady Killer is a mature, intelligent and highly polished record.
However, could the high production values and lack of gritÂ take something away from the album? You see, Cee Lo has always been someone who works best when allowed to experiment and push the boundaries. His last two solo albums, 2002’s Cee Lo Green and His Perfect Imperfections and 2004’s Cee Lo Green… Is the Soul Machine might not have had the sheer polish and production of his latest, but they were genre-mashing, adventurous and downright exciting listens. They were warts-and-all insights into a thoroughly creative man who is a self-described freak, and his personality made these records worth listening to.
The Lady Killer is an album that has been crafted specifically to propel Green into the spotlight. He has mentioned that he wanted to create a more accessible album so that he would no longer be the “underground underdog”, and he has reigned in his eccentricities in order to avoid his creative output becoming a “kamikaze mission”. So, how has this affected his sound?
The Lady Killer is different from his previous work in more than just the polish. As apparent from the opening track, ‘Lady Killer Theme – Intro’, Cee Lo has styled himself as a modern-day Barry White figure (he has said himself that he’s attempting with this album to pick up where the great Mr White left off), and the whole album is a nostalgic trip through 70s and 80s funk and soul. The first track proper, ‘Bright Lights Bigger City’ really sets the tone. Its driving bass-line sounds like it’s straight out of MJ‘s ‘Billie Jean’, and the string section comes together wonderfully to create a fantastic jaunt through the old-school. The next track, radio-friendly ‘Forget You’ actually seems a bit out of place and ruins the fantastic pace at the start of the album. Whilst the track itself is an exuberantly cheerful middle-finger salute that I shouldn’t have to talk too much about (I mean, we’ve all heard it a million times by now, haven’t we?), I actually feel that this is the weakest track on the album – which is saying something, since it’s a cheeky, playful and enjoyable deconstruction of classic Supremes and Temptations tracks.
Thankfully, ‘Wildflower’ picks up where ‘Bright Lights’ left off and is a smooth, accomplished, genuinely romantic vision of every-day love. ‘Satisfied’ is another charmer that finishes far too quickly; the all-girl backing group wouldn’t sound out of place on a 60’s horn-driven swing tune, and it’s touches like this that make the whole album work. Probably the best track on the album is actually a cover, and is genuinely engaging. Band of Horses‘ ‘No One’s Gonna Love You’ is a fabulously emotional song anyway, but Green’s take is wonderful, showcases his excellent range and vocal talent, and really pulls at your heartstrings. It’s these high-points that keep you interested throughout the album and will ensure it’s commercial success.
No One’s Gonna Love You (Paul Epworth Remix):
Compared to his previous solo efforts, though, you do wonder whether the album would have benefited from his usual unhinged, experimental nature. There’s no denying that his vocal ability is impressive and the production here is flawless -Â The Lady Killer is a truly radio-friendly pop album. But, it’s the mishmashing of genres, the creative hooks and hip hop sensibilities that made his previous albums so inventively exciting. By comparison, The Lady Killer seems somewhat flat; a victim of Green’s previously impressive creativity.
If you’re new to Green’s solo work, it’s likely that you’ll very much enjoy this timeless throwback to old-school funk and soul. Green is pitch-perfect and you really get the feeling he could hold his own against the greats of that era – his self-comparisons to Barry White actually seem justified. If you’re already au fait with Green’s previous body of work, though, The Lady Killer might leave you feeling a bit disappointed that he’s played it so safe, especially when you consider how exciting he can be.
Bonus Song! Cee Lo + Dave Grohl + QoTSA – Make It Wit Chu (Live):