The last time that Cee-Lo Green released a solo album before now was in 2004, which was after his days as a member of Atlanta hip-hop clique the Goodie Mob ended, and two years before he hit the jackpot as the singing half of experimental music duo Gnarls Barkley. And on his third solo project, The Lady Killer, released in the U.S. on Nov. 9 2010, Cee-Lo makes the most of his increased popularity. The Lady Killer is the most streamlined release of his career; Cee-Lo hasn't quite sold out and gone pop, but he has made an album full of simple, straightforward and mass marketable relationship songs.
This is a deep album with plenty of good material, but the two finest tracks are the unabashedly profane "F**k You!,"
which became such a huge viral hit that it was released as the album's first single, and "Bright Lights Bigger City,"
a disco-era soundalike that would have been right at home being played at whichever rink that you (or your parents) used to rollerskate as a kid. The heartbreak song "F**k You!" accomplishes the difficult task of being bitter, angry and funny all at the same time. And just as impressive, it's a song that's very profane, but is laced with Gospel in the vocals and instrumentation. The song's just a novelty pop hit, but Cee-Lo makes the most of it with his wild emoting, including mimicking crying hysterically during the song. The lyrics are so catchy that any singer probably could have made the song a hit, but it takes a true vocalist like Cee-Lo to add the various layers to it.
Although the foundation of Cee-Lo's past two solo albums were alternative hip-hop and deep Soul, he seems happy to have made a very accessible album full of glossy pop-Soul tunes this time around, with elements of other musical styles mixed in. The examples of musical diversity include "Old Fashioned," where Cee-Lo declares his love over a beat that sounds like something Soul music label Stax Records probably would have proudly released back in the 1970s; and a remake of "No One's Gonna Love You," which was originally released as a single in 2008 by the Seattle-based indie-pop group Band of Horses.
Smart Lyrics, Sharp Production
© Elektra Records.
Ever since the early days of his career with the Goodie Mob in the 1990s, and continuing with Gnarls Barkley in the mid-2000s, Cee-Lo had been known for his somewhat off-kilter lyrics and alternative approach to hip-hop and Soul music. So it may come as a surprise to his longtime fans that The Lady Killer
, for the most part, is a fairly mainstream, radio-friendly album. There's pretty melodies and soaring vocals throughout the album, and many of the songs would sound right at home on your local adult contemporary FM music station, particularly the loving and affectionate "I Want You," the doo-wop influenced "Cry Baby" and "Fool For You," which has a very Elton John-ish feel to it.
Overall, this album is a refreshing change of pace from your average, run-of-the-mill urban music release. It takes a tried and true R&B and Soul formula - songs about love, sex and relationships - and breathes new life into it, through a combination of smart lyrics, sharp production, and most of all, powerhouse vocals. Or in other words, The Lady Killer knocks 'em dead.