Cee Lo Green – The Lady Killer
In his days with Goodie Mob in the 1990s and his first two solo albums afterwards, Cee Lo Green had taken the career path of many of his alternative hip-hop peers: he remained rather critically acclaimed and only moderately commercially successful, deserving more widespread recognition than he ever received. But all that changed when he met up with DJ/producer Danger Mouse to form the neo-soul band Gnarls Barkley. Their 2006 single “Crazy” rocketed the group to international superstardom, leading them to two successful album runs. So, when Green got around to planning his third solo effort, The Lady Killer, in 2010, it was the first time he released an album with the privilege of having spent some time in the spotlight. And it’s clear that this album was consciously positioned to help Green himself crossover to a larger audience: it tones down his eccentric personality, focusing instead on the tightly constructed pop songs. Even if this has the side effect of making the music a little less interesting in spots, Green is still much more restlessly creative than your average artist. After all, who else could write and get away with the cheerfully profane, Motown-influenced single “Fuck You!”?
And if that song, which in its edited form became an international hit, suggested that The Lady Killer would also have a distinctly retro feel, this presumption turns out to be correct. The album positively shimmers with vintage synths, swinging brass sections, and soulful backing vocals, taking cues from psychedelic soul, hard funk, and big band swing. This, in many ways, plays like a streamlined version of OutKast’s The Love Below, taking fewer chances but using the same general sound palette. But where André 3000 used a Prince-like sex obsession as his foundation, Green often explores the more accessible, romantic side of soul (even if he is telling tales of heartbreak rather than love). “Fuck You!” is still the best and most immediate track on the album: funny, furious, and cathartic all at the same time, but there are many quality songs, beginning with the night-out anthem “Bright Lights Bigger City.” The aptly titled “Old Fashioned” takes a page from 50’s doo-wop, while “It’s OK” and the buoyant “Satisfied” are two of the sweetest (and catchiest) songs on here. But this being Cee Lo, the music here also sometimes has a more sinister bent, be it the dark, ambiguous murder tale of “Bodies” or the slinky spy groove on “Love Gun.” Unfortunately in the second half, a few of the songs tend to blend together a bit, lacking truly distinctive hooks or lyrics, but despite this, it’s a consistently enjoyable record. It may not be the best album he’s ever been involved with, but The Lady Killer should hopefully give Green some much-belated fame.