Release Date: Oct 30, 2012
Record label: Elektra
Genre(s): Rap, Christmas
Cee Lo Green has generated a parade of sinister rave-ups by channeling his own darkest self into a special brand of soulful hip-pop. On his bespangled Christmas album, Cee Lo’s Magic Moment, the manic soulman accesses his better angels without losing the hard groove or the über-weirdness that is, for some, his defining characteristic. Just glance at the album cover: A fur-clad Cee Lo sits shotgun as a reindeer pilots a bright-red Rolls-Royce drawn by three white stallions apparently galloping through a sparkly, purple cosmos.
There aren't many full-effort, front-to-back brilliant Christmas albums, but CeeLo's Magic Moment is one of them. Released ahead of a televised holiday special -- what Mr. Green hoped would be the first of an annual occurrence -- it covers all the bases. Sure, many over-familiar songs are interpreted for the umpteenth time.
If you release a Christmas album in 2012 (and you’re not Michael Bublé), you’re either a merry prankster (Sufjan Stevens) or you’re being held at gunpoint by your record label. You’re also probably an idiot. But for Cee Lo Green, America’s most adorable and unpredictable soul chameleon, a Christmas album not only makes perfect sense—but it also has potential to be pretty freaking great.
This week, as is traditional, the singles chart is full of Christmas records. Curiously, every one is a reissue of very advanced years: Mariah Carey's 18-year-old All I Want for Christmas Is You counts as a snotty young upstart. Elsewhere, Wizzard, Slade and Wham! are creaking their way up the Top 40 for the umpteenth time, unimpeded by a festive challenge from a contemporary artist.
Magic Moment is not a place where Cee Lo Green has arrived by virtue of evolution. An album of strictly Christmas fare, it is the work of Cee Lo the entertainer, a brand extension of his pop-persona witnessed every week on "The Voice", America's best worstmazing singing competition show, where he is a coach/judge. If you were hoping for Cee Lo bringing in Big Gipp and putting the Dungeon Family treatment to "Rudolph the Red-Nosed Reindeer", you best look elsewhere for that freaky yuletide.
The increasingly curious development of Cee Lo Green’s career from R&B crooner to cuddly prime-time cartoon character takes its latest turn with the release of this, his first Christmas album. ‘Magic Moment’ veers between festive bonhomie and the season’s habit of invoking more maudlin feelings, perhaps best typified by the Christina Aguilera duet ‘Baby It’s Cold Outside’. Naturally, The Muppets make an appearance (on ‘All I Need Is Love’), as does Rod Stewart on ‘Merry Christmas, Baby’.
“I found joy through all my pain / I just wanna be happy with being me,” sang Cee-Lo on Common’s 1997 album One Day It’ll All Make Sense. At the time he was examining his relationships with religion and blackness on a song called “G.O.D. (Gaining One’s Definition)”, but the Cee-Lo that’s grown into the public spotlight over these past six post-“Crazy” years seems to have taken that particular line as a mantra he keeps close to his heart at all times.
If there’s anyone equipped to tackle the diversity covered by the modern Christmas-music canon, it’s Cee Lo Green. Reflecting his omnivorous and eclectic musical palate, “Cee Lo’s Magic Moment” runs the gamut: religious songs both classic and contemporary, expressions of warmhearted longing and intense sadness, material with origins in Muppetry and cartoons. It’s hard to resist the Jackie Wilson-meets-Phil Spector bounce the singer puts into “What Christmas Means to Me,” and a Spectorian whoomp buoys terrific versions of “White Christmas” (he’s practically beaming throughout) and Mariah Carey’s “All I Want for Christmas.