Howdy. Welcome back, comrades. Or in the case of freshmen, transfers, or new readers, welcome. I’m your friendly neighborhood Rocktimist, and I want to talk to you about Cee-Lo Green.
I’ve been aware of Cee-Lo for some time, but I must admit I underestimated the man. I liked “Crazy” as much as anyone, but I always attributed the brilliance of the official SummerJam of 2006 mostly to the other half of Gnarls Barkely, DJ Danger Mouse. The ever-cerebral Danger Mouse had a lot of indie cred, based on his collaborations with MF Doom and the RCAA-baiting “The Grey Album,” (a mashup of Jay-Z’s “Black Album” with The Beatles’ “White Album), while Cee-Lo was just some crooner from Atlanta with gang connections and a few minor hits from the turn of the century. In the heady days of 2006, a bona-fide auteur seemed a hell of a lot more impressive than a mere performer, and I never really checked in to see what Cee-Lo was up to thereafter. Oops (and of course Danger Mouse has hardly set the world on fire since “Crazy,” getting involved with an incredibly bland collaboration with the dude from The Shins and being named Producer of the Decade by the world’s worst recently failed music magazine).
Anyway, oops. That’s what I said when I heard “Fuck You,” the undisputed SummerJam of 2010. Now this summer wasn’t exactly starved for SummerJams (unlike the dark, hit-less days of 2009), with excellent contributions from thinking person’s pop stars like Jannelle Monae, Big Boi, Robyn, and above all, Kanye West. But “Fuck You” is unapproachable. Now let’s pause. Maybe you haven’t heard “Fuck You.” Let’s get that fixed:
[youtube src= “http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=pc0mxOXbWIU”]
Indeed. You are correct. That is awesome. Now there’s no need to discuss the immediate reasons why that song is so enjoyable – absolutely everyone can agree on Mowtown throwbacks. But this song tickles my pleasure receptors for a few more subtle reasons that should be pointed out:
1) Gleeful breakup songs (the AV Club has just compiled a good list) tend to be particularly joyful. There are very few things we as a society find more cathartic that ripping into someone who has wronged us, but we get to do it so infrequently that it’s a pleasure we mostly experience vicariously. In the case of “Fuck You,” this effect is heightened by the song’s gleeful transgressiveness. By having a few backup singers echo lines like “ain’t that some shit,” Cee-Lo isn’t just saying everything you want to say to your ex, your teachers, your roommates, your parents, or your boss, he’s also directly assaulting the social order that prevents you from saying it. And he does it so brazenly that the song is almost a spiritual – but instead of anticpating the return of Christ and the redemption of the righteous, this song looks forward to the glorious day when we can give everyone a piece of our mind. It’s like the musical equivalent of Steven Slater.
2) Obviously this song ain’t going on the radio, but it’s obviously going to be popular. Consequently, it becomes a sort of celebration of the way we experience culture now. This isn’t something that gets broadcast out to you from Clear Channel’s central office, it’s something you have to discover. I suspect most people find it through a friend who, and that it usually comes with a introduction along the lines of “you’re not going to believe this shit.” Consequently, when you get to a party, this song is playing, and dozens of people are drunkenly singing along, it’s like you all share some sort of secret. It seems as the old media breaks down more and more, we’re getting more and more weird little nuggets of pop culture that aren’t really distributable products. My other favorite example from this summer is this bit of weirdness from Kanye West:
[youtube src= “http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=L53gjP-TtGE”]
Evidently, that’s a “moving painting.” It’s not really a music video in the traditional sense. What does it mean? I have no idea. But it’s really cool.
One little addendum that doesn’t quite merit its own post. The Rocktimist spent his summer is a small town in Mexico (did you know Reggaeton still exists? I was blown away), and I discovered a relic of out increasingly globalized culture that I want to share with you. Behold, the Mexican Lady Gaga joke:
A guy goes into a taqueria and asks for a Lady Gaga. The guy at the counter asks what a Lady Gaga is. The customer says “it’s a Gringa* with a Chile**.”
* Gringa is the female version of Gringo, hence, a woman from the US. It’s also a kind of a taco with chicken and cheese.
** A Chile is a spicy vegetable indigenous to Mexico. It’s also slang for a penis