Thomas DeCarlo Callaway is no stranger to the music business. You might know him as part of the Southern hip-hop group, Goodie Mob—a bit of a “90’s thing,” of course, but still an entertaining blast from the past. Or you might recognize him as Gnarls Barkley—you know, the guy behind that immensely popular tune, “Crazy,” with one hella trippy music video? Yeah, don’t try and act like you don’t burst into song every time it comes up on your iPod. But now, you probably know him best as Cee Lo Green—that dude who croons out Motown-esque ballads like no other, one in particular entitled “F*** You”…ever heard of it? Anyways, he recently released a new album entitled The Lady Killer and I’m sorry to say, I was relatively disappointed.
Cee Lo begins the album with a spoken intro—setting up his indulgent and wild life as a so-called “lady killer” backed up with whizzing harmonies seemingly taken from the likes of The Incredibles. The first real song of the album is my absolute favorite, and is one of my most-played songs lately. “Bright Lights Bigger City” is catchy and suave with energetic horns and drums—introducing Cee Lo’s soulful, Motown sound exquisitely. The next tune is this past summer’s unexpected smash, and recently-dubbed Grammy-nominee—“F*** You.” I don’t think there’s a more delightful and whimsical anthem for lovesick individuals anywhere. If there’s one song on this album you should listen to, it’s certainly this one—it was the reason I got hooked on Cee Lo in the first place. “Wildflower” shows how Green isn’t as vocally commanding whilst singing in a higher register, but regardless, it’s a beautiful song both lyrically and melodically. The next tune, “Bodies,” employs simple, military drum corps beats, with a lot of heavy heaving and sensual conversation. Frankly…it was a little unnerving to hear Cee Lo talking dirty. Not a big fan. Luckily, he redeems himself with “Satisfied,” which retains the doo-wop panache we so enjoy from his songs—complete with Diana Ross-esque backup vocals. And while “I Want You” is an all-around fine song, this is the point in the album where every tune begins sounding the same. The sugarcoated, reassuring lyrics of “Cry Baby” get tedious; and although it has an off-kilter beat, it’s almost impossible to distinguish the words to “Fool For You.” I relatively enjoy the verses of “It’s OK,” but the empty shrieking of the chorus is enough to make my skin crawl. Although brimming with soul, “Old Fashioned” still feels empty and does not leave much of an impression. And it’s a wonder he would end the album with “No One’s Gonna Love You”—it doesn’t even have an upbeat or buoyant tempo to overshadow the mediocre lyrics, and at least end the record on a cheerful note.
All in all, this album was pretty hit-or-miss. I think I enjoyed the first half of The Lady Killer better than the second—it was much more bubbly and enjoyable to listen to. I think buying the entire record on a whole isn’t that necessary after listening to the entire thing, I’m not surprised the album sales have been lackluster at best. “Bright Lights Bigger City” and “F*** You” are the only two songs that are actually worth a second listen. This might seem so condemning to Cee Lo but hey…one song just got nominated for the “Best Song” Grammy Award; the other was recently released as a single and isn’t doing half-bad. Many artists don’t even get that kind of success from an album, so more power to him. Maybe try and expand your musical palette a bit next time, and dip into some fresh, new genres. Or go back to the old ways of Gnarls Barkley—I surely preferred that a bit more.