The Lady Killer
Astute music fans probably know that singer Cee Lo Green (real name: Thomas Callaway) is half of the critically acclaimed neo-soul group Gnarls Barkley and, before that, a member of the Atlanta rap outfit Goodie Mob. Meanwhile, those who keep a closer eye on the news than the pop music charts may find that his name rings a bell for a different reason: "Isn't he that guy whose song with the f-word in the title made the headlines last summer?"
Indeed, Green's sarcastic, Motown-esque and f-bomb-laden missive to an ex climbed as high as No. 17 on the singles charts earlier this year, pouring more lyrical gasoline on the ongoing conversation about our culture's apparent indifference to even the harshest obscenities. That song alone warrants this album's "Parental Advisory: Explicit Content" sticker. But what about the other 13 tracks from this smooth-voiced, self-confessed Lady Killer?
"Old Fashioned" sports an old-school declaration of love: "This love is classic/ … It's right on time/And it's timeless/And it'll be right here/For always." "I Want You" waxes eloquent and thankful about how God outdid Himself in creating a particularly beautiful woman: "God is good but took His time when He designed you, baby/That's why I want you/ … Thank you Lord, thank you Lord/This is it my God, thank you Lord/ This is it my God."
"Cry Baby" suggests that a devastated woman should realize that the man who dumped her isn't worth all the emotional waterworks ("I'll bet if you try you could live without me/I really don't know why you bother to cry about me"). "No One's Gonna Love You" tries to sweet-talk a lady who has walked out the door into reconsidering her decision. On "It's OK," a man confesses mistakes as well as his ongoing love for a woman who has left him ("I make mistakes/I'm only human/And I'm not ashamed to say/That you are the one/Babe, it's OK/To say that you love me").
"F**k You" (and that's the way it's listed on the album's back cover, though it's not censored in the liner notes or in the song itself) unleashes that obscene phrase 16 times in its dismissive retort to the rich guy whose money proved irresistible to the singer's former flame: "I see you driving 'round town with the girl I love/And I'm like, f‑‑‑ you/I guess the change in my pocket wasn't enough/I'm like, f‑‑‑ you, and f‑‑‑ her too, I said." In addition to those profanities, we also hear eight s-words, two uses of "a‑‑" and one of "n-gga." Another track ("It's OK") includes a lone s-word.
"Bright Lights Bigger City" tells of a man's ongoing love affair with the weekend—and the dancing, drinking and sex that come with it ("Yes, I need it/Everybody does/Cocktails and conversation/Music and making love"). "Wildflower," "Love Gun," "Satisfied" and "Fool for You" all include references to sex. Lyrics in the latter are the most explicit on the album, referencing sexual positions, fluids, feelings, etc.
"Bodies" riffs off the album's "lady killer" theme as it talks about a man finding a woman's dead body in his bed the morning after a passionate night together ("But it takes two to be intimate/So by no means was she innocent/They said that chivalry is dead/Then why is her body in my bed?"). The song's conclusion features a lot of sensual heavy breathing and moaning, both male and female.
When they first arrived in 1985, courtesy of Tipper Gore and the Parents Music Resource Center's lobbying efforts, parental warning labels became something of a scarlet letter for musicians. Before long, though, some artists—especially rappers—began to see them as a badge of honor—independent certification of their authentic badness, as it were.
The derisively labeled "Tipper sticker" is still with us. But after two-and-a-half decades of pop-cultural devolution, harsh vulgarities and explicit content barely make a ripple on anyone's radar anymore. They've become so passé, in fact, that Best Buy feels quite comfortable including it's own branded sticker right next to the parental warning. "Featuring the hit single F**k You," the Best Buy promotion trumpets. Where there was once congressional outrage, then, our culture now struggles to muster much more than a collective shrug before popping in the earbuds on songs like these.
As for the rest of The Lady Killer, there's likely nothing else here that would have prompted a parental advisory. But that doesn't mean such a warning isn't warranted. Several songs tip the musical hat to love (both lost and found) in a manner that recalls similarly soulful R&B tunes from the '50s through the early '70s. More often, though, Cee Lo majors on steamily suggestive moments that reflect our culture's increasingly laissez-faire attitude toward racy content.