The conventional wisdom during Cee Lo Green’s stint with Goodie Mob held that the barrel-shaped, bullet-headed showman was a musical genius too weird to ever achieve mainstream success. Then came Gnarls Barkley’s “Crazy,” a song so ubiquitous and irresistible, it defined summer singles. Now Cee Lo’s commercial momentum is so unstoppable that he’s managed to score another monster hit with a song featuring profanity in its title and chorus (albeit not on the radio or video versions, naturally).
The monster single “Fuck You” is every bit as irresistible and maddeningly catchy as “Crazy.” It’s a tuneful blast of vitriol that doubles as a cathartic anthem for anyone who has ever been fucked over, which is to say anyone. With “Fuck You,” Green has mastered the Lily Allen trick of Trojan-horsing ugly, bitter sentiments into blindingly shiny pop shells. “Bright Lights Bigger City,” with its swaggering “Billie Jean” bassline and disco flourishes, should challenge Ghostface Killah, Trife, and Mark Ronson’s “Ooh Wee” as lazy filmmakers’ default choice as the background music for establishing shots of Manhattan nightlife, while the slow, sinister “Bodies” epitomizes the album’s sweaty marriage of sex and danger. The Lady Killer filters Green’s obsessions with the joys and dangers of love and lust through Motown shuffles, doo-wop, classic soul, and Prince funk. The intro and outro (“The Lady Killer Theme”) convincingly position it as the musical equivalent of a faded late-’60s paperback with a tuxedo-clad, pistol-packing secret agent surrounded by bikini-clad babes on the cover. It’s the rare hip-hop album that might actually make for a good movie, but Green’s sound and vision are so boldly cinematic that a big-screen adaptation would almost feel redundant.