Cee Lo Green
The Lady Killer - Elektra
FILTER Grade: 79%
By Jason Parham on December 14, 2010
The gospel according to Cee Lo Green, however unpredictable, has always been told with equal parts expansive charm and stirring pain. His songs—and there are many—are at once viscerally transparent, achingly beautiful and brilliantly unconventional. The science of Green (née Thomas DeCarlo Callaway) is at times puzzling, though. His ascension within rap, and subsequently pop music, has been both peculiar and fascinating, with tenure as a former member of Atlanta supergroup Dungeon Family, one-fourth of Goodie Mob, half of pop oddity Gnarls Barkley and, as with this current offering, solo artist. Long before Aubrey Drake Graham became the most polarizing figure in hip-hop, Green, with that wide and nasally wail, perfected the rap-sing binary that’s been appropriated by the Toronto phenom and, in equal measure, commandeered by Kid Cudi. But Green, a painstaking stylist and ardent shape-shifter, has never been the type to wear one mask for too long. He provided Southern-twanged lyricism on Soul Food and offered psych-rock incantations on The Odd Couple; his ditties range from the meditative “A Song for Assata” with Common to the oft-overlooked absurdity “Pimps Don’t Cry” with Eva Mendes.
And so on The Lady Killer, Green takes another shape, but this time with a narrow and singular vision: absolute soul impresario. Where Green experimented with disparate sounds in the past, Killer finds him devoted entirely to a ’50s-era electro-soul thesis. For the most part. as the title suggests, his songs explore love and hurt. There is no ambiguity here, no genre-bending crossover a la “Crazy.” Green, perhaps the most curious figure of music’s modern age, commits himself to that of pedestrian art: humdrum colloquialism (though a pop smash, the searing “Fuck You” comes to mind) and only rarely provides lurid, thought-provoking arias (“Bodies,” “Fool For You”) for consumption. The end result is surprising, but by now that’s what we’ve come to expect.