Earlier this summer, Cee lo’s video for “Fuck You” nearly broke the internet when overnight it garnered millions of YouTube views. It told a story so simple, it would seem almost laughable if it wasn’t so relatable; what you would say the moment you see the person you love with someone else. Simply, Fuck You!
I see you driving ‘round town
With the girl I love and I’m like,
Oo, oo, ooo
I guess the change in my pocket
Wasn’t enough I’m like,
And fuck her too!
With the lyrics written out in huge block letters, and a melody that hooks and sinks into your psyche, the video for “Fuck You” spread across the internet like wildfire. It was simple, effective and darn right infectious, the kind of viral video every musical artist and ad agency pray for. Although the radio version, a much tamer “Forget You,” did not have quite the same roll-off-your-tongue feel, it still peaked at #17 on the Billboard charts.
Cee lo hoped to use his hit as a launching pad into super stardom. In a recent interview with The Guardian, Cee lo explained that, “For too long I’ve been underground and underdog.”
Is our vanguard for all things quirky and eccentric, Cee lo, watering down his sound to become a pop icon or is he simply bringing back good music?
To answer this question and more, we rounded up three of the coolest musicians we know and got them to give us a quick lowdown on Cee lo’s latest offering Lady Killer; Igmar Thomas on Trumpet, Kenneth Whalum on Tenor Sax and Sam Kim on Keys. Individually they have all played with some of the best in the industry. Igmar has played with Bilal, Esperanza Spalding and Mingus Big Band, Kenneth has played with Jay-Z, Beyonce and Mary J. Blige, and Sam Kim has played with Mos Def, Ski Beatz and Terri Lynne Carrington. These boys have quite the resume. Let’s get into it.
On overall sound of the album:
Igmar Thomas: This reminds me of Raphael Saadiq’s album he did maybe 2 years ago. Much more than Cee lo, Saadiq had more of a return to the old school, the early rock and roll type of grooves and early r&b. Saadiq used a lot of those older elements. This album reminded me of that, but without completely going into the 50s.
Kenneth Whalum: Sonically this album has a retro vibe, a vintage sound like something from the 60s. It’s a cross between the Stax and the Beatles.
Sam Kim: I feel the album is going for modern but at the same time, throwback to old school soul.
On Cee lo’s new sound:
Igmar Thomas: I feel like this is an expansion on Gnarls Barkley. As far as moving forward from the Gnarls sound, I don’t totally feel like it moved forward from that to this. Instead of stepping forward, they kind of side stepped, a slight kind of progression and growth.
This album is going to help open people up to where music came from and open their minds. The more people that like it, the more of an open minded audience and intelligent listeners we will have out there. He’s reminding people what real music is.
Kenneth Whalum: I’m a huge Cee Lo fan, but I feel like he went away from his personal niche in order to capitalize on the success that the Gnarls Barkley stuff had. From a musician’s standpoint, I like for people to make their own personal statement. While the music was good, I didn’t feel like it was true to his identity as an artist or as the artist that I’ve gotten used to and became a fan of. If you compare his last album to this album, it’s completely different, 100% different. That is a red flag automatically. I follow his music, and as a follower, for him to put this record out and for it be 100% like a different person, it was just a little bit shocking.
Sam Kim: He says in the intro “I’m often asked what do I do for a living and I answer, I do what I want.” Those words can definitely be used about the album. It captures that Cee lo has a one of a kind sound.
Igmar Thomas: “Please” because it’s more original. I don’t think they took any samples or clichés from other music. I like the way it feels.
Kenneth Whalum: “Fool For You” w/ Phillip Bailey. That’s probably my favorite one. I like the songwriting. I could believe it. I thought that one was particularly closer to him, as opposed to feeling like he was just trying to make a record of old sounding songs. I also liked “Please.” The songwriting was solid and he didn’t have to stretch as a singer, so it made sense. I liked what he was talking about really.
Sam Kim: “I Want You” might be my favorite. It’s real melodic with Jamerson-esque bass lines. It was real easy for me to slip into the sound. Whoever mixed Cee Lo’s voice is great. It came out real crisp and really mixes with the track well.
Words By Nora Ritchie