Cee Lo Green

The Lady Killer

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"Fuck You," the feel-joyously-spiteful hit of summer 2010, should cast a large shadow across Cee Lo Green's third proper solo album. The singer's biggest solo single to date, it's the best form of novelty hit -- a side-splitting surface supported with a durable underbelly, combining Millie Jackson-level lyrical frankness with a knockout throwback-soul production. Even without the presence of "Fuck You," The Lady Killer would remain a thoroughly engrossing album. Bookended by a recurring spy-film theme, the set is loaded with a potent mix of Green's singular voice -- meaning his graceful bellow and his oddball personality -- and knowing, hefty soul arrangements sheathed in hip-hop vigor, often embellished with strings, horns, and substantive background vocals. As with 2004's Soul Machine, some of the best songs here share titles with R&B classics. The testimonial "Wildflower" switches between corny/winking couplets ("Sexy is in season/Share your sunshine with me") and amusing metaphor play ("Hold her with both my hands/Put her right on my table when I get her home"). The infectiously beaming "Fool for You," served with a choppy gait, carries as much pride as Ray Charles' "A Fool for You." "I Want You," yet another song that punches and swirls, isn't as straightforward as its title suggests; it's about pressing the reset button on a dying relationship. The final full song, "No One's Gonna Love You," is a cover -- not of the S.O.S. Band, but of Band of Horses. It's a faithful version that humbly spotlights the versatility of a fascinating talent. Just as importantly, it's a suitable way to follow "Old Fashioned," a tear-the-roof-down ballad drenched in reverb and sweat.

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