Cee Lo Green's new album, The Lady Killer, is drenched in soul and retro camp. The star of hip-hop and funk, and half of the duo Gnarls Barkley, seems to channel his inner James Bond, especially on the title track.
" 'Lady Killer' kind of sounded like it could be a title for a Bond movie," Cee Lo says. "It also kind of implied what I wanted sonically: something edgy and elegant at the same time; something urban and international at the same time."
In an interview with All Things Considered host Melissa Block, Cee Lo was asked to provide a sense of where The Lady Killer fits in with his earlier music and describe what led him to this vintage sound.
"I'm inspired by elder music," Cee Lo says. "I've been in the industry long enough to be an elder statesman myself at the time, after 17 years. I believe it's very seasoned and sexy."
Cee Lo is sometimes described as "retro" or "vintage," but he makes a distinction.
"I tend to like antique things -- not old and unable, you know?" Cee Lo says. "Antique things have an appreciation and worth. Something can be old, but it can be timeless; therefore, it becomes an antique. If this antique is preserved and deemed precious, it could be passed down as a family heirloom."
Cee Lo says he has one such antique that he's saving for his son.
"It's a 1965 Chevy Impala Supersport," he says. "It's a beautiful sea-foam green color, like a teal green, white interior -- it's just a gorgeous car. When my mother had passed, she had left some insurance money and ... it just is my mother, because I bought this car with some of that money. It's one of the first cars that I bought back in the Goodie Mob days. I haven't driven it in years, so it's just parked and being preserved. I really want my son to have it years from now."
"Satisfied" is one of the many songs on The Lady Killer that Cee Lo says went through a few transformations. It has big horns and a Motown/Northern soul vibe now, but it originally sounded like Prince. Cee Lo says "Satisfied" even went through a country phase.
"It was a country song, a country song by Prince," Cee Lo says, chuckling.
But the song that went viral and caught everyone's attention in the past few months was "F- - - You," or its sanitized counterpart, "Forget You."
"So sanitized," Cee Lo adds.
If the album is all about the Lady Killer character, "F- - - You" is about the other guy -- the guy who gets left behind.
"This one was written in retrospect," Cee Lo says. " 'Lady Killer' is a condition and you say, 'Well, what caused this?' The same way if you ask, 'How did Peter Parker become Spider-Man?' Well, he got bit by a radioactive spider. How did Lady Killer become a Lady Killer? He got his heart broken."
All of the songs on The Lady Killer were written or co-written by Cee Lo, except for one: "No One's Gonna Love You" by Band of Horses.
"Band of Horses are unsung heroes and underdogs. I consider myself the same," Cee Lo says. "I thought I would honor someone like-minded."
"No One's Gonna Love You" is a song about loss and regret.
"The fact that you can love something that you've lost is all the incentive you need to love again, as opposed to becoming comfortably numb," he says.