Watching his single “F—- You” become a runaway viral hit within days of its online release has been “pretty magical” for Cee Lo Green. “It’s a pleasant surprise, I must say,” the singer tells the Music Mix via phone from London. “I think it’s totally surpassed just about everyone’s expectations. We had a clue – I mean, it’s a very noticeable song – but this has been extraordinary.”
“F—- You” was born almost two years into the recording of Cee Lo’s third solo album, The Lady Killer, which is now due Dec. 7. During a session in L.A. with hitmakers Bruno Mars and Phil Lawrence (B.o.B’s “Nothin’ on You,” Travie McCoy’s “Billionaire”), they let him hear a rough sketch of a song they weren’t sure was worth completing. “When Bruno first sung ‘F—- You’ to me, they were still a bit indecisive on whether or not it could work at all,” he says. “I was like, ‘I like it. Let’s record it.’”
Finishing the song became “a collective effort,” with Cee Lo contributing many of the verse lyrics that surround that unforgettably risque hook. As heartfelt as Cee Lo’s crooning sounds, his tale of being jilted for a Ferrari-driving slickster wasn’t strictly autobiographical. “I mean, it’s based on something true… As far as me personally, it’s not a current event. It’s a figurative account. It’s not completely fictitious, though.”
With “F—- You” continuing to gain speed online, Cee Lo and his team are scrambling to keep up. The dancing-words clip that’s racked up 1.7 million YouTube plays so far is just a place-holder, he says; a proper video is coming soon, but the singer coyly refuses to divulge any details about it. He’s also recorded a profanity-free radio edit to help the song’s chances of getting on the air. “It’s called ‘Forget You,’” he says. “It’s pretty close to the original, but not as effective. But it’s politically correct.” And while he had no part in creating 50 Cent’s witty remix, Cee Lo is a fan. “It was flattering that he would take the liberty of joining in so quickly,” he says. “I thought it was really cool.”
As excited as Cee Lo is about the success of “F—- You,” he’s eager for the world to hear the rest of The Lady Killer, which also features songwriting and production work from seasoned industry hands like Jack Splash, Salaam Remi, Fraser T. Smith, and Rick Knowles. “Lady Killer was a part of me that I had yet to showcase,” the singer says. “I believe it’s just another chapter in that novel that is Cee Lo.” He hopes to take that chapter on the road soon. One venue in particular is on his mind: “I had a vision of wanting to do a first for maybe our generation. I wanted to do a residency in Vegas for this album. ‘Come to Vegas and see Lady Killer!’ It just kind of had a ring to it. Maybe that’s a long shot, but who knows.”
One thing you won’t hear on The Lady Killer is any of the quick-thinking rap that Cee Lo brought to pioneering Atlanta group Goodie Mob in the ’90s. “I have a lot of fans from my Goodie Mob days that would kill to hear me rhyme again,” he says. “I made them a promise that if I was done with this album and we were able to complete [a new] Goodie Mob album, that was when I would rhyme for them. I’m separating those two things.” Yet he’s confident that the long-awaited Goodie Mob reunion project will come to pass. “We’ve been working on it. It’s been pretty casual, the way that we’ve worked on it, because of prior obligations…. I have to work a little harder to complete all these thoughts. But it is my desire to, and we will succeed at it.”
As if that’s not enough, Cee Lo also assures fans that Gnarls Barkley, his successful ’00s duo with producer Danger Mouse, will “definitely” release another album at some point. “Me and Danger talked the other day,” he says. “He was really happy for me.” Asked about the order of his future projects, Cee Lo maps out a grand plan. “Idealistically, I would like a Goodie Mob album to come first. That’s what I want: another Goodie Mob album, and then Gnarls, and then we’ll all be one big happy family and go out on the road together…. I have a whole awful lot of work to do, but it would be great.”
(Follow the Music Mix on Twitter: @EWMusicMix.)
More news from EW.com’s Music Mix:
‘What A Wonderful World’ songwriter George David Weiss dies at age 89
50 Cent remixes Cee-Lo’s ‘F— You’
Kanye West announces “Good Fridays”: New tunes every weekend ’til Christmas
Lady Gaga is Queen of Twitter: Sorry, Britney!
Lauryn Hill performs at Rock the Bells festival: Is she back for good?