So much to Cee
THERE are many words to describe singer Cee Lo Green ( pictured).
Hitmaker is one, after F---You became one of the most unavoidable chart-toppers of the past year. Eccentric is another. He does this interview horizontal in a London hotel bed.
And he’s a grandfather – well, sort of. Green, 37, took on the title after Sierra, the daughter of his first wife, gave birth last year.
‘‘ Most people think Sierra is my biological daughter,’’ Green says. ‘‘ She just turned 21 [ and] she has a year-old son called True. That makes me the coolest, newest, greatest, most exceptional grandad you’ve ever met.’’ Green first came to attention as part of Atlanta rap crew Goodie Mob. He left after being offered a solo deal but those albums were poor sellers. He found a lucrative sideline, cowriting the Pussycat Dolls’ Don’t Cha before a pairing with producer Danger Mouse led to the formation of Gnarls Barkley. Their global hit Crazy was deemed a once-in-a-career event, overshadowing anything Gnarls Barkley has done since. However, last year Green managed a second once-ina-career hit with F---You. The song has sold close to four million downloads in the US alone. Green performed it at the Grammys with Gwyneth Paltrow and some Muppet characters and at the Brit Awards with Paloma Faith.
‘‘ It has taken me about 18 years to be an overnight success,’’ Green says. ‘‘ It’s very cool to have a record that people embrace as their own, to the point of purchase – ‘ This is how much I believe in it, I’m going to buy it’. That’s a compliment. I can understand that music has suffered in general. If I can be something positive, to breathe some fresh air in, then so be it.
‘‘ My quest hasn’t been about fame or celebrity, it’s been about success at full circle.
‘‘ I believe you have to be a successful person before you can be a successful personality. You have to be whole. You have to be well-read. There’s no wine before its time. I was in no rush to be famous. I was in a rush to earn my keep, to work towards that. I believe I do deserve this little piece of it. This isn’t all it has to offer, I’m just getting started after all this time.’’
While that hit was released in more palatable versions called FU and Forget You, Green is proud of the subversive ‘‘ victory’’ getting the ‘‘ F’’ word into a catchy, million-selling pop tune.
‘‘ I’d go so far to say that society is growing,’’ Green says. ‘‘ My mother told me I’d do something special with my life. I have that little ghostly bubble like you see on TV that appears in my mind of my [ late] mother. It lets me know she’s nearby and she probably has a great deal to do with it.’’
Green recorded another version of the song, Thank You, to raise awareness for volunteer firefighters. The singer’s mother was one of the first black female firefighters in Atlanta.
The success of his latest solo album, The Lady Killer, and its latest hit single, Bright Lights Bigger City, has pushed his next project back. He’s re-formed the Goodie Mob for a new album, where he’ll dust off his rap skills.
There’s also a third Gnarls Barkley album in the pipeline . . . when he and Danger Mouse can co-ordinate their schedules.
‘‘ Gnarls is having an extended hiatus,’’ Green says. ‘‘ We always enter into it to be an alternative. Alternatives aren’t for everyone.’’
While he was deemed an alternative act with Gnarls Barkley, Green is now very much in the mainstream. His latest job is appearing on hit US TV show The Voice, judging new talent alongside Christina Aguilera and Maroon 5’ s Adam Levine.
‘‘ I’m the same person. I’m able to be adaptable,’’ Green says. ‘‘ I feel right at home around the eccentrics of the indie alternative world. I’ve always felt like the pop community has considered themselves maybe not unconventional but exceptional. With that being said, there’s some type of speciality that comes along with being able to be in that number. I feel special. Therefore I belong in both places.’’