Cee-Lo Green - The Lady Killer

Posted November 8, 2010
Tags: Cee-Lo Green,

Thomas DeCarlo Callaway has re-invented himself to a degree that hip-hop has never seen. Or...

The Lady Killer Album Review

Thomas DeCarlo Callaway has re-invented himself to a degree that hip-hop has never seen. Or perhaps it’s more accurate to say that Cee-Lo Green, as he’s more commonly known, has steadily become more and more himself; his crazy, crazy self. Green began his career as one-fourth of the Goodie Mob and sharpened his mic skills alongside the likes of Outkast. But he found even the adventurous Dungeon Family too restricting, launching into two eclectic solo albums before forming Gnarls Barkley alongside the equally fearless Danger Mouse, in the process landing one of the more unlikely top two hits in music history. Suddenly Lo had everything he ever wanted: the artistic freedom to do absolutely anything and everything, and a track record of large scale success to bankroll that freedom. And what did Cee-Lo do with all that freedom? He became The Lady Killer.

Cee-Lo Green’s third solo album is a natural next step in his musical evolution, a meticulously crafted work that finds him striking a careful balance between his pop sensibilities and Gnarls Barkely’s avant garde leanings. Overflowing with re-imagined soul and Motown influences, Lady Killer holds up to its title, leaving behind any notes of overt rebelliousness or depression and focusing instead on celebrating love and life. And also having hot hot sex. Also that.

The Lady Killer is so focused on the positive that even when it’s screaming F**k You it’s doing so in the most enjoyable way possible. I never though I’d see the day when a song with a title like F**k You is a smash single, but Lo imbues the song with such a sense of retro fun that it becomes a joyous celebration of defiant rejection. Don’t be surprised if you find grandma dancing to F**k You at the next family reunion. That kind of impossible-to-ignore toe tapping is evident again on Love Gun, a ‘50s influenced track Booth regulars will know as a Melody Thornton offering, although for Lo’s album she’s replaced by Lauren Bennett’s more understated vocals. Just in case you thought Lady Killer is some sort of mid-century retrospective, Green mixes a walking bass line reminiscent of MJ’s early work combined with disco strings and 80s pop synths on the dance-party inducing Bright Lights, Bigger City. Based on that description I wouldn’t expect to enjoy Bright Lights, but I’ll be damned if my head doesn't starts nodding every time it comes on; which in many ways makes it the epitome of The Lady Killer’s universal appeal. Note to up-and-coming artists: The best way to get people to care about your music is to make music you care about.

While Cee-Lo does stay within the relatively loose borders of ‘60s soul for most of the album, he does venture off the reservation on occasion, beginning with the sultry Bodies. A sweetly haunting track that takes The Lady Killer’s homicidal romance theme to the next level, Bodies sounds like a classic Usher joint, if Usher’s musical heroes were Morrissey and D’Angelo. Similarly adventurous is the echoing No One’s Gonna Love You, a slightly more rock influenced groove that borrows emo-rock’s vibe for the verses and Motown’s grandeur on the chorus. It’s a combination that on paper doesn’t look like it should work, but it works and then some. Of course I could say the same for Please, which somehow blends Portishead’s electro depression with early r&b’s jazzier elements, and Wildflower allows Green to showcase the full range of his impressive voice. Green’s voice does everything a traditional vocal coach would advise against, and that’s exactly what makes it so great.

Personally, and I know long time Cee-Lo fans feel the same way, no matter how good his albums are, ever minute that goes by without Green rapping is another minute we’re forced to confront the fact that one of the most creative emcees to ever grab a mic will likely never rap again. It’s a sad thought, but I find comfort in knowing that he’s left hip-hop to make music that will last long after me and my Big ‘Ol Words loving brethren have passed from this Earth. Time and time again on The Lady Killer, from the Al Green revival that is Old Fashioned to the doo-wop Cry Baby, Green has fittingly made timeless music by borrowing musical elements from nearly every decade of American music since the Great Depression. No one saw this coming when Lo was just that bald dude in Goodie Mob more than fifteen years ago…except Lo himself. Listening to The Lady Killer, you get the feeling he’s been planning this for a very, very long time.

DJBooth Rating - 4 Spins

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Posted November 8, 2010
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