Whether with Goodie Mob, Dungeon Family, Gnarls Barkley, or his limited solo work, there’s a good chance that Cee Lo Green the Soul Machine has graced your speakers, and – more likely than not – had you tapping your feet. It takes a special kind of artist to be a substantial contributor to so many different sounds; it’s truly a testament to Cee Lo’s always-fluid, but somehow still-recognizable style. Two years removed from Gnarls Barkley’s The Odd Couple, Cee Lo has decided to go for dolo once again, taking his ever-evolving musical sensibilities along for the ride.
The Lady Killer has an unmistakable gamut of influences. It sounds as though Cee Lo has thoroughly studied every classic James Bond title song, Michael Jackson’s Thriller, mixed with some early Rock & Roll and some ’60s schmaltz. The introductory “The Lady Killer Theme” is wonderfully corny, and sets the tone for the album. “Bright Lights Bigger City” has a bass lick that evokes memories of “Billie Jean,” with grand Disco synths flooding the track when Cee Lo isn’t singing. When the beat is in full effect, it’s extremely rich, but the real treat is when Cee Lo’s doing the heavy lifting, singing with little to back him but that bass.
Runaway contender for single of the year, “Fuck You” is so cheery and smooth that it could be featured in an Old Navy commercial and slip by the FCC. Cee Lo is at his animated his best here, and it would be fascinating to find out how much The Smeezingtons (a writing trio including the ultra-talented Bruno Mars) had to do with the track. It is, for all intents and purposes, flawless – and won’t grate on your nerves upon the 100th listen, unlike “Hey Ya!” Salaam Remi provides a chilling backdrop for “Bodies,” which displays Cee Lo with some more sinister things on his mind: “Can nonchalant be obvious? Of course / I leaned towards her and whispered, ‘The choice is yours’ / Need I remind you that I’ll have no remorse (I understand) / Here’s a kiss sweetheart this won’t hurt a bit / I can kill it with kindness or murder it Then I’ll face the time a murderer gets (Or get away with it).”
The trio of “Satisfied,” “I Want You,” and “Cry Baby” send Lady Killer into a bit of a lull; none of the tracks is of poor (or even middling) quality. Rather, they just don’t distinguish themselves in production or vocals in comparison to the remainder of the album. “Fool For You” rectifies this, as it contains some of Cee Lo’s finest singing on the record. “Old Fashioned” slows things down just in time for the annual sock hop, and the outro sends the listener out with as much style as it invited him or her in.
That The Lady Killer is an appealing musical cocktail is no surprise. Just as compelling a draw is Cee Lo’s story about the search for love. Fragmented, subtle, and occasionally disturbing, it adds a layer to the album that will make it enjoyable to listeners on several different levels. It’s not a flawless effort, but Cee Lo’s latest is a formidable addition to his eclectic catalogue.