CeeLo Green has a remarkable falsetto and is capable of producing some outrageous pop songs. These are undeniable facts, backed up by smash-hits Crazy, Bright Lights Bigger City and Forget You (as it will always be known to those of us who lived with disapproving parents when it arrived in 2010). Now, after a brief hiatus, the heavier half of Gnarls Barkley is back with his follow-up to his breakthrough second album, The Lady Killer. Heart Blanche retains the gospel-style backing singers and catchy choruses of his previous work; however, the out-ad-out pop nature of his old music hasn’t lived to tell the tale. It is a smooth cruiser of an album that reigns in the show-stopping vocals previously utilised by the singer to produce a lighter sound – a relief after the exhausting nature of The Lady Killer.
The intro opens with the lyrics, “Well, here I am.” It’s been too long, and the eccentric soul singer immediately launches into song in classic fashion. Est. 1980s is cut from the same cloth as Crazy in that its falsetto chorus draws attention from the song’s deficiencies in other parts, making up for this too with an energy and enthusiasm of a child who for too long has been kept subdued, forced into silence in church or at school. However, this poppy refrain soon makes way for the sublimely cool Mother May I, a slick R&B offering with a funky baseline and a toned-down tempo. The tongue-in-cheek lyrics, depicting the stroppy pleadings of a would-be tearaway teenager to his over-protective mother, show that CeeLo is not a man to be taken too seriously.
The album continues in this vein, with experimental instrumentals and mock-theatricality occasionally puncturing the affable CeeLo’s crooning, only to quickly return to the easy-listening funk-style R&B (see Tonight). It is not the most awe-inspiring album in terms of adventure and musical ability. However, it slinks casually to the end with pomp and a grin that have become synonymous with the former Goodie Mob frontman’s work, particularly noticeable in Music To My Soul.
The only blooper on a very enjoyable album is Robin Williams, a song I can only assume was intended as a heartfelt, gut-wrenching tribute to the late great comedian. However, the carefree quality of CeeLo’s voice, arguably the best bit of his previous songs and especially the comically desolate warbling of a perennially cheerful-sounding man in CeeLo Green Sings The Blues, undermines this intention, capped with annoying sound effects (beatboxing is a no-no) and accidentally insincere-sounding lyrics making this a song to probably avoid. However the rest of the album is a pleasure, and if you are after something slightly different and eccentric while still very chilled and easy to listen to, this is your best bet.