Reflecting on 2010, there are a handful men who have made an impact,
positive or negative, on the musical landscape. Big Boi whet our appetites for Andre 3000's return, The Foreign Exchange gave
us a brilliant follow-up to SoulBounce's top album of 2008, and Kanye West took us inside his dark, twisted mind. Each of them will be remembered for years to come, no doubt, but it is near-criminal to think of the year without giving praise to the rotund soul machine himself, Mr. Cee-Lo Green, our 2010 Man of the Year.
Thomas DeCarlo Calloway is a musical force. With one of the most recognizable, powerful voices in modern music, he's made a career of utilizing that instrument to forge his own, unique lane in this industry. He knows no boundaries. None. Gritty southern gravy-covered rap, '60's-era soul, Parliament-level funk, commercial-friendly pop, smoky dive bar finger-snapping jazz, psychedelic space funk: whatever you need, Cee-Lo can deliver it. And he does. With ease.
In June, he released "Georgia," the supposed first single from his forthcoming album. Not a week later, he tweeted about a surprise dropping later that day. His unexpected mixtape, Stray Bullets, was a masterpiece in itself. It was the perfect prelude to what was to come. As expected, this collection of new and unreleased greatness was--even without a clear direction--miles ahead of what many contemporaries spent months crafting. Have you heard "ChamPain" and the Goodie Mob family affair, "Night Train"? Absolute magic.
Prior to 2010, Cee-Lo had last achieved "household name" status in 2006 as the vocal component to experimental, genre-busting duo Gnarls Barkley. The dust from his collaboration with producer Danger Mouse had long settled when his bright and sunny Motown-esque tidal wave of a single, "F--k You," hit the scene. Within five days of its release, the song, essentially a gift basket with a middle finger in it, had amassed over two million views on YouTube. It was the most well-sung sendoff in recent memory. Vulgar, honest, self-depreciating, sing-along-able and universally relatable, it had all the makings of a hit. Once you've been covered by Gwyneth Paltrow and the cast of Glee, William Shatner, and every shameless person with a YouTube account, you know you're onto something. TIME named it the top song of 2010. It then received three GRAMMY nominations: Record of the Year, Song of the Year, and Best Urban/Alternative Performance.
Although he stayed in rotation on our collective playlists, commercially speaking, Cee-Lo Green was back.
Listening to the resulting album, The Lady Killer, is an outerbody experience. You can almost see him, perched atop a stool, pimp cup in one hand, lyric sheet in the other, in a wife beater, sweating, singing for his life. Not that it's hard work, as his king-sized voice likely soars effortlessly. He floats to the past and into the future, slaying women and beats along the way. While the production is stellar, his voice is the star of the show from beginning to end. He's Al Green. He's Bootsy Collins. He's Lionel Richie. He's everything that music is missing.
It didn't take long for Fuse to notice, giving him an interview and performance show, Lay It Down. Moving into 2011, Cee-Lo Green is preparing for a full fledged Goodie Mob revival. He's promised a single or mixtape by the end of the year and an album by March or April, hinting at a return to his rap roots. Whatever the outcome, you can guarantee it will be something you weren't expecting as he is incapable of anything less.