CD Review: Cee-Lo Green, “The Lady Killer”

The biggest fault with The Lady Killer is its viral sensation, the track “Fuck You.” It is an effervescent, light-spirited Motown-styled pop song that needs to have it’s mouth washed out with soap. So many other records should have it so good. The rest of The Lady Killer has virtually no profanity attached, but more important, it is filled with songs that actually top its high-profile anchor track.

For instance, “Bright Lights Bigger City” is an ’80s synth-soul sing-a-long complete with rolling strings and a bassline homage to Michael Jackson’s “Billie Jean.” “Wildflower” could have arrived in the 1970’s and found a home on the Tamla Records label, and true to Cee-Lo’s patented eccentricity, his cover of Band of Horses’ “No One’s Gonna Love You” makes the tune his own. It becomes an embarrassment of riches; so much so that one has to ask if the album really needed a stunt such as the now scrubbed-clean “F— You” or worse, “Forget You.” As stunts go, this one is no Jackass base-jump off a backyard shed, it’s Evel Knievel sailing over the Caesar’s Palace water fountains, but it sets up in the mind of the listener one pop tune with gutter talk after another, and that’s just not the case on The Lady Killer.

Like so much of the new wave of neo-soul, Green draws not from hip-hop but from the sources that fed it, never so apparent as it is on “Fool For You” featuring Earth Wind & Fire’s Phillip Bailey on the backups. Green is not duplicating something, or aping a trend to cash in on it. By his exuberant delivery, you intuit his love of the sound of classic soul. He doesn’t want to tip his hat to this, but to join with it in a more complete sense. Of course, you might not get that impression from the song everyone knows by now. My advice would be, if it’s a matter of offense, pick up the clean version of The Lady Killer. The sanitization only changes “Fuck You” and one utterance of “shit” later on the disc. The rest of the album remains intact, and remains one of the most fun discs of 2010.