Awesomely powerful, soul-pop voice stretches from single to album
The Lady Killer 3/5 In interview, Cee-Lo Green talks – often in impossibly opaque terms – about his difficult and violent past, and his shift from survivor to soldier to his current status as the owner of an awesomely powerful, soul-pop voice and the scorer of several number one hits. The best known is of course ‘Crazy’, which he recorded as one half of Gnarls Barkley, but his irresistibly punchy ‘F*** You’ (clean version, ‘Forget You’) comfortably broke into the top 10.
Green’s third solo LP uses falling foul of love as a metaphor for being shafted by the music industry, but it’s only the love stuff you notice, as you might expect of a man with a voice that’s equal parts Marvin Gaye, Sam Cooke and Barry White. At 14 tracks, it does rather outstay its welcome and, for our money, Green shines most memorably when he steps slightly away from the retro-soul button. We know it’s not his fault, but the one-size-fits-all Ronson effect (swathes of strings, a barrage of horns, fulsome backing choir) has deadened whatever vitality and freshness once lay in paying homage to Motown.
Not that Green plays it straight. ‘Forget You’ suggests Gaye had he grown up on NWA, the terrific ‘Fool for You’ provides a postmodern twist on The O’Jays, and the widescreen intro (Van Halen’s ‘Jump’ wedded to ‘Billie Jean’, even) is the orchestral-soul partner to Jay-Z’s ‘New York State of Mind’. But ‘Please’ sounds suspiciously like Portishead’s ‘Sour Times’, while ‘Satisfied’ is exactly that, a glee club-friendly reduction of Motown to bleeding obvious brass and follow-the-ball beats. We’re blaming the Atlantic cultural divide –while letting the best bits of The Lady Killer do exactly that.