The Lady Killer

How can you not love Cee Lo? He's a virtuoso rapper who has one of pop's most unique singing voices. He's a self-proclaimed lady-killer who's roughly as tall as a mini-refrigerator and as broad as a Hummer. He wears pink suits. He put a song called "Fuck You" in the Top 20. He is, in other words, an original: a showman with a penchant for scrambling a variety of sounds — rock, soul, hip-hop, spaghetti-Western soundtracks — into something deliciously strange.

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That weirdness makes Cee Lo's first album since Gnarls Barkley blew up one of the most engrossing records of 2010. It's tempting to peg the sound as retro-soul. But as with Gnarls, the music won't stay put. "Fool for You" slides from silken ballad to gospel funk. On "Love Gun," gunshots punctuate strings and surf guitars — it's part Philly soul, part James Bond theme.

At times there's a slight chilliness to Cee Lo; his stormy ballads — like the slow-boiling ballad stunner "Old Fashioned" — can seem less like confessions than stylistic exercises. But, oh, what style. Listen to Cee Lo at his most beatific, on "Bright Lights Bigger City," a thumping neo-disco ode to a bacchanalian night out. "Cocktails and conversation/Music and making love/And it's all right, it's all right, it's all right," he sings. Is there any other pop star you'd rather hit the town with? What are you, crazy?

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