When Cee Lo Green's jubilant single, "F--- You," became an online sensation at the end of August, I asked him what that near-perfect pop song should tell us about his forthcoming "Lady Killer" album, his first since hitting big as half of Gnarls Barkley ("Crazy"). "I don't have 14 'F--- You's' on the way," he said, chuckling. "A single is meant to signify an album's worth of work, but not meant to sum it up. The moods on the album vary as much as my mind does." He wasn't being very truthful. Nearly all 13 other tracks on "The Lady Killer," out Tuesday, are as irresistible as his f-word calling card. While the sounds vary considerably, the mood is singular: come hither.
Green takes his album title quite literally. Beyond the 007 drama of the intro and outro, the operatic "Bodies" finds him boasting, "They said that chivalry was dead / Then why was her body in my bed?" Immediately after, in "Love Gun," guest vocalist Lauren Bennett (one of only two guests, thankfully, because listening to anyone else sing on a Cee Lo record is a criminal distraction) celebrates the violent metaphor: "Who knew that once through the head / and one through the heart / would make you feel all right?" She then cries, without a wink, "You shot me, baby!" There's a body count on "Lady Killer," for sure -- the kind that would make Barry White, three octaves down the scale from Cee Lo, smile.
The great success of "Lady Killer," though, is how it updates R&B's hoary cliches. Cee Lo swings from the plainly stated Curtis Mayfield beauty of "I Want You" to the Solomon Burke class of "Old Fashioned," making clear his love-starved and libidinous intentions, without ever evoking leopard-skin undergarments or heart-shaped beds. String sections and backing vocals tip his stylish hat to Motown and Gamble & Huff, but every song rings fresh, modern, anthemic, packed with earth, wind and fire. No filler at all. An utter delight.