Crazy, the lead single from Gnarls Barkleys first long-player, St. Elsewhere, wasnt just 2006s biggest pop song. Its likely to be a signature track for the entire decade a demographic-crossing, radio-format-busting phenomenon that singer Cee-Lo Green never saw coming. Crazy is no different than any of the other things weve done, I dont think, he says from a tour stop in Paris prior to a performance with producer Brian Danger Mouse Burton, his ingenious Barkley partner. Maybe thats something Ive got to figure out in time. But its equally eccentric, and it was never meant to be as commercially celebrated as it was. Its a very serious song, as is the album as a whole. We dont concentrate on singles. Were reveling in the glory days of the full-length album. Thats what were about: complete thoughts.
Maybe so, but the size and scope of the dittys popularity burdened Elsewheres successor, this springs The Odd Couple, with impossible expectations, and thats a shame. Even though the latest effort is actually better than the debut deeper and more consistent, with the irresistible groovers Run (Im a Natural Disaster) and Surprise standing out from the pack the disc earned highly variable reviews and sales have been modest. I guess its something you could expect, Green concedes. We, of course, didnt set out to disappoint anyone, but all we could truly be was ourselves and continue on. I think it would have been a lot more disappointing for us to attempt to do another Crazy and have it be obvious and deliberate and us not succeed at it and us feel afterward that we shouldve just gone with our hearts.
We didnt want to fail at being honest, he goes on, gaining momentum with every word. Theres always success in being yourself. So I believe that we are completely successful and victorious, and you just cant please everyone. And we werent even trying to. A lot of our music ends up being cathartic and very expressive and inventive and experimental. So its never our intention to be entertainment or amusement to anyone. If youre entertained or amused by it ultimately, then so be it; thats just fine. But we dont start off that way.
Even as Green is working to get Coupleheard, hes trying to interest labels in a new recording by his 90s-era hip-hop group, the Goodie Mob and the perception that the collective is past its prime frustrates him. I know that pretty girls sell records and little kids sell records, he says. But as long as we can exist as an alternative, its fair to me.
Anything less would be crazy.
Sat., June 28, 2 p.m., 2008