Loving Cee-Lo Green


I discovered Cee-Lo Green by accident. Back in the day, by which I mean 2004, I'd downloaded something that I thought was...well, I can't even remember what I was looking for now, but that turned out to be Cee-Lo's self-aware, virtuosic lament about the failure of his career to take off, "Die Trying." I was instantly a convert, a junkie, a follower. I had people over to my dorm room and forced them to listen to all of Cee-Lo Green...Is the Soul Machine. The guy was simultaneously a roly-poly loverman and a hyperactive sex fiend, a thoughtful analyst of family gone wrong and the Source's rating system for albums, a guy with a gritty, articulate mid-tempo flow and a crooner who really just kind of wants to be Frank Sinatra. 

I was always pleased by the playful success of Gnarls Barkley (Cee-Lo as a chubby Darth Vader with Chewbacca playing drums is one of my favorite pop cultural fragments of the decade). But I never particularly cared about Danger Mouse. My investment in the temp-group was always as a vehicle for Cee-Lo's glorious weirdness to a larger audience. So it seems appropriate, after a summer in which he's released a stellar mix tape, that he'd show up, sweaty and with nerd glasses and tattoos, wandering through woods and dry grass, on a video for a song that's also on the Eclipse soundtrack:

"What part of forever don't you understand" would sound kind of creepy as just another Edward Cullenism, but with Cee-Lo warbling it against a whistling backdrop and musing about what it would be like "If I had a heart" it's a delightful bit of weirdness all its own. More to the point, the combination of the look, the association with the sublimely sincere Twilight franchise, and Cee-Lo's take on pop is precisely what I love about the guy. It's mass culture precisely on his terms, and I hope that the release of his full-length album this fall will make listeners decide that those terms should be theirs as well. 

If this song isn't precisely your cup of tea, "Georgia" is a superior, more emotionally complicated and personal track:

I could listen to him sing "I'm moving on, using mostly dirt roads until I find my way" pretty much forever.

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Alyssa Rosenberg is a culture writer with The Washington Post.

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