First Impressions: No Need To Ask...Cee-Lo Is A Smooth Operator On 'Lady Killer'

Tuesday, November 9, 2010

He's really no stranger in these parts, but everyone seems to be getting re-introduced to Cee-Lo Green all over again. Cee-Lo's acclaim has been attached mainly to groups like the Goodie Mob and the experimental duo of Gnarls Barkley, but as a solo artist, most of his material has fallen on deaf ears. With the release of the battle cry known as "F**k You!", some people are hearing Cee-Lo for the first time flying solo, so first impressions are everything. 

An impression Cee-Lo makes with The Lady Killer, his third record, and probably the most mainstream accessible collection he has put forth. It's hot buttered soul with a suave touch that is sure to get most jumping out their seats due to it's throwback appeals. Yet, if you were over the moon for Cee-Lo's "mixtape that desperately wants to be an album" Stray Bullets, The Lady Killer might come as a slight disappointment.

Now before you sort of look at me as if I grew three heads out of my neck, The Lady Killer isn't a full blown disappointment. Just that Stray Bullets built up the buttercups and The Lady Killer sort of let things down, especially if you were taken completely off guard by Bullets as I. Stray Bullets possessed a very eclectic array of gems that stretched genres and was ambitious. It was truly something that got my eclectic loving palette salivating. On The Lady Killer, Cee-Lo plays it safe, as the bottom half of the album plays like an updated manual on how to do 21st century Motown/Stax correctly. No doubt that this was probably done for radio attention and there isn't anything wrong with that, except some of the inventiveness and unexpected experimentation that Cee-Lo is known for doing is lost. In honesty, there were about four songs on here ("Little Black Book" and "Is It?" are two) that I could have substituted for four tracks from Stray Bullets for a more eclectic mix.

....but I need to let that go.

The Lady Killer does set out to be a debonair affair, playing as if we are experiencing a show from a luxury dance hall. All we need is our imaginations to visualize a backing band, feathered Josephine Baker-esque background dancers, that winding staircase stage backdrop from Stormy Weather, and Cee-Lo at the mic snapping his fingers and getting us on our feet. No, I'm not on the sauce, the album truly feels dashing and suited up in all the right places. The Lady Killer also plays up the "old is new" quality quite well, as it's a showdown of big band, classic R&B and Bond anthems this side of "Goldfinger". Don't be surprised to hear some of this backing flick soundtracks and over-produced commercials for nighttime spy/cop dramas.

Killer doesn't kick-start in the "old fashioned" groove that it dissolves into. It comes in blazing and eclectically driven with personal favorite, "Bright Lights Bigger City" surging in with on 80's sleek appeal. The horn laden "Wildflower" follows suit, and chugs along on a impeccable orchestrated arrangement. On the other hand, the Salaam Remi produced "Bodies" coasts on the vibe of a Blaxploitation film soundtrack. Backed by shivering strings and loads of sexual healing, the track is achingly 70's, as the tepid percussion marches on.


The delectably brass blast of "Love Gun" wakes you out of "Bodies" fever, with vocalist, Lauren Bennett in tow for support.

Love Gun (ft. Lauren Bennett)

The middle sort of sags with the suite of "Satisfied", "I Want You" and "Cry Baby", which literally any R&B singer with crooning ability can pull off. In Cee-Lo's case, it's just incredibly lazy for him. He does switch up his guns to a better grade when he gets Phillip Bailey to back him up (oh so quietly) on "Fool For You". The track, no doubt, plays a homage to the skittish funk of Bailey's band---you know 'em---I'm talking about the elements, Earth, Wind & Fire.

Fool For You (ft. Phillip Bailey) 

While other boys are still playing with their toys in the R&B/Soul market, Cee-Lo takes on the ultimate task of upgrading a bygone musical era while also not trying to sound like his peers. He may have taken some pages from the likes of Curtis Mayfield, Sam Cooke, and Bobby Womack, but Cee-Lo doesn't mimic these artists, but rather picks up where they left off. We can talk about how "the Motown revival" sound of the "noughties" has been in overkill, with every Tom, Dick and Duffy jumping on the sound, but in Cee-Lo's case, The Lady Killer doesn't play that game. Even though it has an extremely tedious middle, songs like "Bodies" and "Bright Lights" do peek at originality as well as style---elements that The Lady Killer truly embodies. Even when Cee-Lo is upgrading Band of Horses' 2008 single, "No One's Gonna Love You", he makes it seem like it was his idea all along.

Rating: 9.0/10
Release Date: November 9, 2010

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