Cee Lo Green, “The Lady Killer” (Elektra)
Atlanta’s Cee-Lo Green can rap, write, and produce in any freaky style like it ain’t no thang. But as his Gnarls Barkley showcase “Crazy” made definitively clear, the former Goodie Mob-ster sings barrelhouse soul with an intensity that few mainstream figures of his generation can match.He’s simultaneously operatic, wild, sophisticated, and Southern-fried because he’s got big-lunged skills as primal as the gut-screaming feelings from which they emanate. Yet, until now, he’s never focused solely on his most extraordinary asset.
Green’s first solo outing since the Gnarls Barkley breakthrough rectifies this by narrowing his scope to beautifully busy 21st-century Motown as greasy as it is vibrant.The Lady Killer sets stadium-size melodies, horns, strings, and machine-free beats to detailed encapsulations of Saturday-night transcendence and Sunday-morning love pains. As labyrinthine and huge as most contemporary R&B is stark and minimal, Green’s collaborations with a host of American and European hit men (whose credits span from Bloc Party to Belinda Carlisle) suit him because they don’t shy from his larger-than-life pipes.
With brash, masterful aim, Green bypasses neo-soul’s classy constrictions with instant (and substantial) classics like “Fuck You” and “Cry Baby.” Throughout The Lady Killer, he hits his target cut after butt-shaking cut: no diversions, no filler — just rhythm and Day-Glo blues quintessence. More than ever, Green is the surreal deal.