Talk about unsung. For fifteen years, Cee-Lo has stood on the precipice of stardom, and he’s actually gotten there a time or two. Still, the guy’s nowhere as appreciated as he should be. He’s a great songwriter (do you know he wrote “Don’t ‘Cha” for The Pussycat Dolls?..OK, maybe that’s not the best example of great songwriting), he’s an intense singer (a throwback to the gospel-influenced vocalists of yore) and to top things off, he’s a top-shelf emcee. With all that in mind, it’s a damn shame that prior to the viral smash “Fuck You” the average pop music fan only knew Cee-Lo as the voice behind Gnarls Barkley’s hit “Crazy”.

I’m not so sure that “The Lady Killer” will change that-based on the first week numbers, it’s not looking like a world beater-but it’s yet another stellar effort in a career that’s been filled with stellar efforts. As has been his custom since Gnarls Barkley broke big, Lo has curtailed the rapping to concentrate on singing. Musically, the album is steeped in classic soul-with nods to Sixties pop as well as Seventies funk and Eighties electro-pop. It’s as commercial as Cee-Lo could possibly get without selling his soul, and despite the fact that he seems to have made a couple of concessions to the middle of the road (although it’s highly unlikely that songs about killing your date really qualify as “middle of the road”), it’s still incredibly engaging and listenable.

It’s kind of hard to pull favorites here, seeing as the album’s so consistent all the way through, but you’d be wise to check out the strong album opener “Bright Lights Bigger City” as well as the smooth Seventies hookage of “Cry Baby”. “Bodies” is a hypnotic listen despite (or maybe because of) the somewhat disturbing lyrics referenced in the last paragraph, and the cover of Band of Horses’ “No One’s Gonna Love You” is amazing.

As 50 years of pop music as a commercial entity has taught us, the cream doesn’t always rise to the top. So whether “The Lady Killer” turns out to be a million-seller or not has nothing to do with the quality of the album. I suppose that if you wanted to quibble, you could say it leans a little too heavily on sounds of the past. However, when I listen to Cee-Lo, I don’t hear “retro” or “futuristic”. I just hear good-ass music, and if you pick “The Lady Killer” up, I’m sure you’ll hear it too.

Grade: A-

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