I packed a few of my belongings
left the life that I was living
just some memories of it
mostly the ones I can’t forget
We’ve had the discussion several times on DCIP about what it takes to be a “classic” album, specifically in the realm of hip hop.
A major piece of the discussion revolves around the aging of the album and whether or not it can still be heralded as highly as it was upon its release. When you expand into other genres, it’s usually easier to label, as styles don’t often change too much when it comes to traditional song structures and what it takes to build an album.
When you take a traditionally hip hop artist, prepare him with a producer known (at the time) for his experimental blend of Beatles and Jay-Z into one full length project (the Grey Album), the possible results are all over the board. When “Crazy” was leaked in late 2005, it received heavy airplay on British radio stations before its official release in 2006 which garnered international attention.
The duo became a major hit, but had to nail it with a solid album release.
“St. Elsewhere” climbed as high as #4 on the Billboard Charts mainly due to the strength of the lead single. The album earned platinum status before fading into obscurity by the middle of 2007 with “Crazy” as its only remaining remnant within the public scope. The duo would go on to later release 2008’s “The Odd Couple”, which received decent reviews, but never got the attention of its predecessor.
Let’s back up though.
St. Elsewhere itself is a dark, eerie, lonely feeling of an album. One that dashes away any hope that it creates over and over again as you wish to pour drink after drink with the narrator as he opens up his life story to you. It’s a rollercoaster of feeling, but the rollercoaster only goes so high because you just know the drop is coming. Yet these mood swings blend perfectly because there’s an underlying theme of loneliness that connects every song on the album.
What are you waiting on
I want action, passion, smiling
Laughing, yielding, feeling
Introduce your neighbour
To your savior
The album opens with “Go Go Gadget Gospel” which is the most upbeat track on the album (it actually is upbeat). You’ll start tapping your foot and dancing along as Cee-Lo’s hits note after note about triumphing through the dark times, but it won’t take long for you to find out what those dark times were.
The video was amazing by the way:
As the album blends into Crazy, you settle down a little bit because you’ve now been here before. This song was all over the radio waves and what was left of music videos on television in the mid to late 00s. Then things shift into St. Elsewhere and there’s no coming back from it as this track sets precedent for the rest of the way (with exception of Gone Daddy Gone and Smiley Face).
Cee-Lo does everything from choosing to distance himself from those he loves (St. Elsewhere) to battling inner demons (The Boogie Monster), as well depression and suicide (Just A Thought, Who Cares). He also busts out some of his rapping chops (which he hadn’t done at this point since Soul Machine in 2004) on Feng Shui and Transformer in the middle. Overall the album is a solid listen, especially if you just want to sit and reflect on life experiences. It’s not too heavy where it brings you down to listen to it, you more so get caught up in the way the pain is expressed and how soulful the songs are instead of the burden of receiving the information.
You see, everybody is somebody
But nobody wants to be themselves
And if I ever wanted to understand me
I’d have to talk to someone else
‘Cause every little bit helps
Gnarls Barkley would go on to release one more album, The Odd Couple, before taking hiatus afterward. They haven’t released or announced any new projects. The Gnarls Barkley projects were one of many side projects that Cee-Lo had up his sleeve in the mid-00s, and one of the only ones that came to fruition. He was supposed to do a full collaborative album, “The Happy Hour”, with Jazze Pha, which only amounted to one released single called “Happy Hour”:
There was also a collaborative album with writer and producer Jack Splash of the band “Plantlife” (he has an extensive songwriting history, you should Google it). The two were to be named “The Heart Attack”/”Love Stink” but only released two songs to the public, one of which was used at the end of T.I.’s 2006 film “ATL” called “Right Now”
The other was a song featured on the “Disturbia” soundtrack and was titled “Gangsta Boogie”