Cee Lo Green’s been at this juncture of popular music before. The ubiquity of ‘Fuck You’ mirrors his success with Gnarls Barkley’s ‘Crazy,’ the 2006 leftfield hit whose infectious melody and razor-sharp electro-soul production masked a dark and troubled lyric. ‘Fuck You’ is nowhere near as subtle – and is explicit in every sense of the word – but it ticks just about all the other boxes, from vibrant Motown production to a chorus so catchy it’ll stick to your ears. The lyric video alone garnered 2 million hits in its first week on Youtube. Lyrically, it could be the jilted lover’s answer to the Beatles’ ‘She Loves You’ – except amended to become ‘She (only) Loves You (for your money) … so Fuck You.’ The small matter of radio play was solved with the recording of two alternate versions – one a straight censorship job called ‘FU’ and the other re-jigged as ‘Forget You’ – which is where it gets a little messy.
According to the man himself, Cee Lo recorded 70 songs for The Lady Killer and, aware that his first two solo records flopped commercially, left it to the label to choose the final running order. Thus we get ‘Forget You’ as track 3 and ‘Fuck You’ shoved on the end following the outro – that’s the song ‘Fuck You,’ not the command, but it’s the same basic effect. That aside, the majority of the album flows quite well with only a couple of filler tracks in the middle interrupting the momentum. The production throughout is outstanding – dense but never less than pristine – and the continuity is good despite the revolving door of producers.
‘The Lady Killer Intro’ sets the mood with a sultry (higher-pitched) Barry White-like monologue, streaming into ‘Bright Lights Bigger City,’ a punchy dancefloor-filler that briefly reprises John Barry’s Bond Theme ‘You Only Live Twice’ (or Robbie Williams’ ‘Millennium’ – whichever you prefer). Other highlights include the tender ‘Cry Baby’ (that’s an invitation, not an insult) and the Al Green-channelling duet with Selah Sue, ‘Please.’ There are nods to just about every great soul performer, from Stevie Wonder and Marvin Gaye to the aforementioned White and Green, but ‘It’s OK’ is surely worth an award for the most nods per capita.
One final word on the tracklisting: It would be a stretch to call it a watershed moment, but it clearly says something about modern listening habits that a label would flippantly shove two versions of the same song on a CD and leave it up to the listener to decide which one he’ll put in the recycle bin. Another odd choice was the total omission of beautiful summer single ‘Georgia,’ but on balance The Lady Killer is one of the year’s most interesting pop releases and will surely produce a couple more hit singles over the coming months.