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Every once in a while a song comes along which is so massive that it seems to define an era. It's unusual for this to happen more than once in an artist's career, but Cee Lo Green has managed this feat twice - first in 2006 with the quite ubiquitous "Crazy" which was a worldwide smash for him and his Gnarls Barkley collaborator Danger Mouse. He then managed it again in 2010 with his solo single "Forget You" - although of course it was the baser, original version "F**k You" which was the real hit.
What I have always liked about Cee Lo Green is his voice. He's not just a singer - he raps too - but as a singer he really is one of the best of his generation, with a voice which can convey a myriad of emotions and one which contains a range of different tones. He is a vocalist who can portray the aural equivalent of light and shade in his singing and quite simply, he's an exceptional talent.
His 2010 release "The Lady Killer" had me worried, despite being bowled over by "F**k You" from the minute I viewed this viral video hit on YouTube. I feared he would fall into the cheese laden territory of the soul lover man occupied by the likes of Alexander O'Neal and his onstage bed after learning the album was a concept one of sorts. There's no danger of that happening here however because Green has a wonderful sense of humour which permeates this entire album and it's his ability to ensure he doesn't take himself too seriously which makes this such a success.
Another reason this album works so well is due to Green's ability to doff his cap at various musical influences throughout the album, whilst remaining firmly in the genre of soul - a genre which for so long as played second fiddle to rhythm and blues in the commercial stakes.
~~The Lady Killer~~
The album opens with a brief intro entitled "The Lady Killer Theme" and this owes more than a brief musical debt to James Bond, and Green makes no attempt to hide this, claiming "when it comes to the ladies, I have a licence to kill". And so the scene is set for a run through Green's love life as he is dumped, falls in love, dumps his lover, meets a wrong un and finally settles down with the girl he dumped over the course of the album.
First track proper is a stomper - "Bright Lights Big City" opens with a powerful nod to the 80s with a Fairlight introduction reminiscent of "Miami Vice" before Green's strong voice kicks in. The Bondesque sound continues with this track - in particular the strings - but it's no pastiche - this track is a cracking opener which stands on its own with an uplifting dance beat and memorable chorus.
My biggest bugbear with "The Lady Killer" is how "F**k You" is relegated to the lowly status of bonus track, with the radio friendly "Forget You" taking it's place on the album. This is a bit of a cop out as the sweary version is definitely the best as Green portrays his bitterness over a quite brilliant Motown sounding backing. The lyrics are genius - my favourite being "I guess he's an X Box and I'm more an Atari/But the way you play your game ain't fair".
Green's vocals are brilliant - conveying anger, disdain, pain and tears in the space of just under 4 minutes although the backing vocals are rather special on this too. It's to production team the Smeezingtons' (who include Bruno Mars in their number) credit that they have worked so well with Green to produce what was, for me anyway, the song of 2010.
"Cry Baby" is another brilliant soul track which is uptempo with a truly inspired horn section on the backing which is actually a bittersweet kiss off song from Green. As an aficionado of old school soul music I can hear several influences here but Green manages to stamp his own identity on to the song to override those influences with his own talent.
Second single "It's Okay" is great within the confines of the album with a brilliant rolling drum backbeat which takes you straight back to the sixties but is a bit too similar in style to "F**k You" - making it a bit of a cop out as a follow up single (and one which has failed to set the charts alight). "Satisfied" is better at capturing a long gone era and has a lovely underlying sexual tension over the incessantly jolly backing vocals. Tom Jones might well cover this.
There is some more sex talk on here but thankfully we don't have any of the pump and grind stereotypical soul music you might come to expect from a lady killer - "Bodies" has a brilliant arrangement which gives it an entirely sinister sound and double meaning - with the innuendo going up a notch with the addition of some heavily breathed backing vocals towards the end.
Even better is "Please" which features Selah Sue on some quite fantastic echoing backing vocals and she takes on Green - who is in particularly fine vocal fettle here - brilliantly. This is a raw and dark song which finds both singers conveying desperation convincingly and touchingly.
Green also pairs up with former Earth Wind & Fire singer Philip Bailey on "Fool For You" and this is inspired, using Bailey's famous falsetto on backing vocals over a song about deep love and, of course, sex. The Earth Wind & Fire influence is noticeable but not overwhelming. There's certainly no danger of Green being parodied as Earth Wind & Fire were in the eighties - and I suspect that in part is down to Green revealing his own weaknesses in the lyrics.
"Wildflower" is a quite beautiful love song which makes copious use of strings on the backing track but Green's voice is the star of the show here. There is something utterly sincere about Green when he sings a chorus which is lyrical and evocative as he compares the colours of a flower in bloom to falling in love. In another nod to the power of romance, Green reveals the influence of Sam Cooke on the only ballad on the album, the quite impassioned "Old Fashioned". It's a testament to Green's ability as a singer that he brings to mind someone as great as Cooke or even Otis Redding - he really is that good.
There is no denying this is a very commercial album. Having said that, it's a deeply satisfying commercial album. After a glut of albums which have worn the inspiration of the 60s so blatantly on their sleeves, it's a breath of fresh air to come across an artist who has clearly been inspired by a genre's past but has still been able to come up with something which is incredibly fresh.
My only gripe is the way the record company have played safe by putting "Forget You" on as the second main track on the album when it really should be "F**k You" - this seems a cop out especially in light of the Parental Advisory sticker on the CD case.
Green's singing is the best thing about this album - he is able to use his voice in such a clever way to convey so many emotions and convince utterly with every single one. His lyrics are clever too however - he never loses sight of the fact that what he wants to say should be surrounded by an air of laughter and it's this humour which stops him becoming a stereotype of a stereotype within an oft stereotyped genre.
Green has worked with several different writers and producers on the album and it is to their credit that they have stuck with his vision and helped him create this fine album which stands out for me as one of the best albums I bought in 2010. In a word - recommended.
I had no idea until fairly recently who Cee Lo Green was . I'd heard one of his solo songs on the radio quite a lot, and really enjoyed singing along to it, but somehow never managed to catch the name of the artist . It wasn't until I saw Gwyneth Paltrow perform a really quite cheesy version of 'Forget You' on Glee that I put two and two together, and came up with four .
It took me even longer to realise that Cee Lo was the voice behind another favourite track of mine, Gnarls Barkleys 'Crazy'. And then a little while more before I also realised that his was the soulful voice completely overpowering Jack Black on 'Kung Fu Fighting' in Kung Fu Panda, one of my daughters favourite films . By the time I'd put all these differen tracks together in my head, I'd realised I quite liked Cee Lo's sound, and decided to buy his 14 track album, The Lady Killer , for the ridiculously cheap price of 4.99.
I don't intend to go into this review track by track , but rather to focus on the songs that particularly stand out for me. However, I will provide a full track listing at the end .
The track that started it all for me, was Forget You (also on the album in a more explicit F*** You format). And actually, I really didn't like this track at first. I work in a bakery, and although we have the radio on, we can only access one station with any reliability, one that repeats the same few tracks on a loop throughout the day. Add to this the fact that we are only allowed it on quietly, so quietly as to not actually be able to decipher all the lyrics, and the fact that in a typical shift I could hear this song up to ten times got incredibly annoying .
Until I watched Skinny Gwynny ruining this song on Glee. Whilst she gave possibly the cheesiest performance ever, I was able for the first time to clearly hear the lyrics (I don't listen to the radio at home) and appreciate the subtle humour within. As a gamer girl, I can really get behind lyrics like ' He's like Xbox, and I'm more like Atari' and have a bit of a giggle at them. Whilst the lyrics themselves are lightly amusing, though nonetheless heartfelt, it is Cee Lo's passionate soulful style of singing that really makes this track .
His voice does not belong in the noughties (is it still the noughties now) amongst all the bilge currently in the charts today . He should not be standing alongside such manufactured talentless farts and cover artists as Cheryl Cole, Matt Cardle, and JLS . He belongs in an era where people wrote their own music, and sang it without the aid of autotune . His style is a bit of soul, a bit of blues, and a lot of heartfelt emotion, almost a retro sixties vibe, but with enough energy to keep him very current.
The next song that stands out for me is Cry Baby. With the lyrics seeming very much like a break up note, this song could potentially have been a very sad and sombre affair - but actually it has a very snazzy upbeat feel , with his smooth velvety voice accompanied by jazzy trumpets and some saxophone. It's just so catchy I can't help but smile and sing along, despite the fact that the lyrics should be depressing.
Old Fashioned is another brilliant song, with a slow intro that almost misleads me into thinking I'm going to hear that old blues classic Misty Blue . One of the slower tracks on the album, with a lot less dance potential, it has a real true blues feel. You can almost picture Cee Lo singing this in the corner of a smoky bar, a whiskey held tightly in one hand .
With that said, for all the old fashioned bluesy wonderfullness of the song, the song actually lacks something on the lyrics front when you get right into it . There are actually only really three or four sentances, reworked with the words in a slightly different order to fit the tone of the song, yet somehow this just isn't apparent when listening .
The key factors that make this album so much worth listening to are Cee Lo's old fashioned blues and soul style, combined with some really quite original lyrics (on most tracks at least) and the fact that the guy just has an amazing voice, a really deep, rich, molten chocolate kind of tone . And he sings sexy too - not in his lyrics, which are, with the exeption of a few swearwords, pretty tame by modern standards, but just in the fact that there is something so knicker wettingly seductive in his tone.
An album certainly worth buying - and at 4.99, it's a steal . 4 stars, one off for some lyrics being lacking in depth .
1. The Lady Killer Theme (Intro)
2. Bright Lights Bigger City
3. Forget You
6. Please (Feat. Selah Sue)
8. I Want You
9. Cry Baby
10. Fool For You (Feat. Phillip Bailey)
11. It's OK
12. Old Fashioned
13. The Lady Killer Theme (Outro)
14. F**k You
Disc #1 Tracklisting
1 The Lady Killer Theme
2 Bright Lights Bigger City
3 Forget You
8 I Want You
9 Cry Baby
10 Fool For You
11 It's OK
12 Old Fashioned
13 The Lady Killer Theme
14 F**k You