Cee-Lo Green is probably best known as the voice behind the Gnarls Barkley hit song “Crazy”. Embracing his eclectic style and larger than life persona in the Gnarls Barkley collaboration, Cee-Lo honed his Southern neo-soul drawl while creating a sound that was easily recognizable. The trend continues with the new album “The Lady Killer”, a disc that showcases his interesting proclivity for romance with some Saturday Night Fever inspirations that pays homage to funk legends such as James Brown.
On the spoken-word intro to the album, Cee-Lo declares over a cinematic drumroll “When it comes to the ladies, I have a license to kill.” His persona swathed in cheeky bravado, although the result is amusing and endearing. The first track “Bright Lights Bigger City” rolls in unmistakably on a tune that brings Michael Jackson’s “Billy Jean” to mind. The song about Saturday Nights and the promise of a good time prove instantly memorable if only for its inspired sampling. The lead single on the album and coyly titled “F**k You,” resplendently features the expletive in a tongue-in-cheek jab at the gold digging lover who left him for greener pastures. Cee-Lo plays the jilted lover and laments on the funky jam track “ Yeah, I’m sorry I can’t afford a Ferrari, But that don’t mean i can’t get you there. I guess he’s an Xbox and I’m more Atari, but the way you play your game ain’t fair.” The song just racked up two Grammy nominations for Record of the Year and Song of The Year, a good indication that Green has managed to achieve mainstream success.
The comparisons of Gnarl’s Barkley music to Cee-Lo’s sound might be spot on, but the singer lets loose and creatively adds his own imprint. This is clearly evident on the evocative “Wildflower,” a sweet pop song Cee-Lo uses to worship the beauty of a woman’s body. “Wonderful wildflower, open up, let me see, sexy hints in seasons, share your sunshine with me,” he sings on the chorus as the melody floats over string orchestrations.
Cee-Lo experiments a bit with his sound in the track “Bodies.” “They said that chivalry is dead, then why is her body in my bed,“ he muses over a sparse instrumentations. The theme of love drives the album, which lucidly flows from track to track. In “Love Gun,” Cee-Lo warns about the pains and dangers of love and throws in some fake gunshots for good measure.
From crooning romantically in “Satisfied,” a song that can easily evoke sing-a-longs at any karaoke bar to vocally sounding his best on the gorgeous “Cry Baby,” the album never loses cohesiveness or bores. The pacing is near perfect, though listeners might be dissuaded by the heavy Motown vibes and sometimes over-the-top sounding production. The only things that the album suffers from are the apparent similarities between some of the songs and that some of the songs are just simply “old-fashioned,” which ironically is the title of the ballad where Cee-Lo concedes “My love’s old fashioned, so be it. I’m set in my ways, hush child, just listen. Don’t it sound just like the good old days?” Perhaps this is Cee-Lo’s subtle wink at his album’s aesthetic, but ultimately it isn’t an issue, as the album stands out and quite possibly possesses the longevity to stand the test of time as a classic.