The effervescent ditty from Gnarls-y songsmith CeeLo Green has thoroughly permeated the earlobes of the shocked and awed across the globe. With just two words and three chords, the monstrously mammoth melody set musical precedents of all kinds. But why?
CeeLo’s breakup anthem, arguably the most giddy and satisfying ever put to wax, was released a mere five days ago upon an unsuspecting public. Out of exile and out of nowhere, Green officially jumpstarted buzz for his upcoming album The Ladykiller, which will likely feature 10-15 ‘other’ tracks, all of potentially excellent quality. In his long career, Green’s never made a particularly bad album, and his effort with Gnarls Barkley, St. Elsewhere, drew rave reviews – especially on the heels of his hit, “Crazy,” a ubiquitous singalong much in the same vein as his current smash.
But the current earworm is all but assured of becoming both the top line of his resume and his epitaph. The song, a motown chugger that leaves the listener slack-jawed in withdrawal mere seconds after its abrupt conclusion, stuns with a saccharin melody, driving pulse, ocean-sized vocal hook and spotless production. The track is everything a pop song should be and then some, except for the unbelievably vulgar lyrics – so inevitable that even bleeping or airbrushing the myriad profanities couldn’t hide them – and will likely never touch radio in unvarnished form.
Like it needs to. CeeLo has somehow created the biggest hit of the summer, and it won’t appear on any charts. And this, more than perhaps the post-censorship era it might supposedly usher in, is the cornerstone of “F**k You”s import. The song is the death knell for sales defining popularity and signals a paradigm shift in the way we experience music. Sure, it’s entirely possible The Ladykiller sells well and cleans up at various music download outposts, but the song represents the vulgar climax of music becoming popular simply for existing on YouTube, with no real tangible way to otherwise listen to, or own, the song itself.
Just earlier this month, the Double Rainbow song (8 million views), and the Bed Intruder song (13 million views) fashioned themselves as hits, despite being mere auto-tunes of a hippie blowing his figurative load and a project-dweller blowing a gasket, respectively: both set to alarmingly catchy instrumental hooks. These aren’t meant to be leadoff singles to an album, or showstoppers performed on tour, or radio hits. Hell, these songs didn’t even have actual artist names associated with them. The music itself simply exists, outside the realm of the industry that traditionally houses it.
CeeLo’s song, despite being the antithesis of each criterion proposed above (after all, he is clearly trying to move mega-copies of his forthcoming long player), fits comfortably into that same molding. It doesn’t matter that it was he who performed it, or who wrote it, or how many albums are shipped in the first week, or Billboard chart position or critical accolades. Radio airplay is irrelevant. The song is viral performance art, like a David After Dentist or a Christian Bale rant. Except you can sing along to it.
It’s like a big “f**k you” to the radio, to the FCC, to the status quo and to the world. And we’re all-too-pleased to be getting cursed out.
In fact, I need to listen to it again, right now.