Release Date: Nov 13, 2015
Record label: Atlantic
Genre(s): Rap, R&B, Pop/Rock, Neo-Soul, Contemporary R&B
In "Working Class Heroes (Work)," the carefree fourth track on Heart Blanche, CeeLo Green beams, "There ain't no problem that music can't solve. " Throughout his fourth proper solo album, Green seems guided by this phrase, like he wants to project nothing but positivity, as if he needs the art form as much as ever. Since the 2010 release of The Lady Killer, he was visible on a number of fronts: he coached on The Voice, released a Christmas album, and reunited with Goodie Mob.
CeeLo’s Heart Blanche begins with, “Look in my eyes, you’ll see the soul under my celebrity skin/ I’m not afraid, to open up wider, please be my guest and come on in.” Let it be said that the trappings of celebrity have their own unforeseen circumstances. CeeLo claims he’s ready to be even more transparent, there, but seems to leave his heart behind on this new LP. And, from the onset, you are introduced to a grayer space than the one CeeLo Green has occupied for over a decade.
"Phil Hartman, can you hear me," CeeLo Green croons on the peculiar track "Robin Williams." It's ostensibly a ditty about losing our heroes — "Life reminds me of Robin Williams / We need to laugh the pain away" — but comes off a bit clunky, and frankly, much of the rest of the album does, too. Heart Blanche is Green's first full-length since making some reprehensible comments on social media (mis)defining assault and consent last year. This is crucial context; this project functions as a clear mea culpa, constructed with reputational rehab in mind.So, for the most part, Heart Blanche is safe sounding soul, easily digestible pop sound bites that leverage CeeLo's distinct vocals for celebratory "remember when?" tracks like "Est.
It’s been an eventful five years for CeeLo Green since he released his last proper album, 2010’s The Lady Killer. Riding high off of the tremendous success of the single (and PopMatters’ #1 Song of 2010) “Fuck You”, CeeLo got a gig as a judge on NBC’s then-new singing competition The Voice, reunited with his ‘90s rap group the Goodie Mob, and released a Christmas album. On the downside, he was accused of sexual battery in 2012 and released a flurry of tweets concerning his thoughts on rape when the trial ended in the summer of 2014, leading to the now-traditional deleting of the celebrity Twitter account and its eventual reinstatement, minus the controversial statements.
CeeLo Green would like to show you the life of the mind. The burden of the artist was the animating concern of “Crazy,” the deathless downtempo soul rumination he recorded as one-half of Gnarls Barkley. It was the subject of Goodie Mob’s 2013 comeback single “Special Education,” a chest-thumping crunk-trap tribute to distinguished outsider status.
Five years after the ridiculous, impeccably catchy "Fuck You," CeeLo Green is trying on his funky-weirdo Prince shoes again. This time, they don't quite fit. Heart Blanche's campy soul grooves come and go in spectacular waves, lifted by some of Green's best-ever vocal work, but are drowned by the album's pretentious tendencies – see "Robin Williams," a ponderous requiem for dead celebrities.
There’s a song on CeeLo Green’s fifth solo album called CeeLo Green Sings the Blues, and he has certainly got his reasons for singing them. The Goodie Mob, Gnarls Barkley and Voice star has displayed what you might charitably call some regrettable behaviour of late – last year he pleaded no contest to a count of slipping a woman ecstasy at a restaurant, then caused justifiable uproar by airing some truly appalling views on what constitutes rape. You won’t find too much self-examination here, on his first album since 2010’s hit the Lady Killer: the aforementioned track resorts to self-pity (“My heart is filled with unconditional love / How could anyone hate me?”), and elsewhere he chooses to ignore things entirely.
CeeLo Green has always done his best work when balanced out by more straight-faced accomplices, from the molasses-voiced, moon-faced hype man for Southern-rap stalwarts Goodie Mob, to playing against the scrupulous studio perfectionism of Danger Mouse in Gnarls Barkley. Left to his own devices, though, Green produces a garish form of sunshine pop, padded out with lush orchestration and sloppy first-draft lyricism, presenting himself as a jovial, sexless figure of open-hearted fun. The intro to Heart Blanche establishes the album's general template, with Green squawking and vamping over a soaring gospel background befitting the late-career ministrations of a geriatric soul diva.
The least fans of Gnarls Barkley singer and former US Voice judge CeeLo Green have the right to expect from ‘Heart Blanche’ – its very title implying both a cleansing and the start of a new chapter – are some answers.In the past, Green has been almost painfully honest in his lyrics. ‘Glockapella’, from 2004’s brilliant but little-heard ‘Cee-Lo Green… Is The Soul Machine’, found him going public on his anger with his estranged bandmates from Atlanta hip-hop outfit Goodie Mob. He has used his music almost as a form of therapy, discussing his pain in public as if to better understand it and treat it.