Let’s face it: the only reason you’re scanning this review is to find out if I think that Cee Lo Green’s The Ladykiller album is as good as its deliciously naughty lead single, “Fuck You.” The only question the album really has to answer is whether or not it can reach the admittedly high bar that “Fuck You” set for it. So if you’re in a hurry, the short answer is yes, The Ladykiller has plenty of non-“Fuck You” delights to offer, although none of the other songs are as overwhelmingly awesome (they range from “merely good” to “really awesome”) . The Ladykiller is a spectacular pop album and Cee Lo is a gifted vocalist, despite – nay, because of – the fact that he sounds like some sort of Muppet from the future. Put it this way: if more pop music sounded like The Ladykiller, I would listen to more pop music.
So here’s what I wanna talk about with regards to The Ladykiller: I want to talk about the total public neutering of “Fuck You” as a single. Cee Lo smartly released it on the internet first, where people won’t recoil in horror at every little utterance of the F-word. The hype that justifiably built up behind the song led to the radio wanting to play it but, like the radio is wont to do, it had to suck out all the fun parts first. “Fuck You” had to become “Forget You” for the radio and, if you have the self-loathing required to actually watch the Grammys, you will more than likely see it performed as “Forget You” during that show as well.
Is “Forget You” really so much worse than “Fuck You” as a song? Unequivocally yes! And that’s because the magic of “Fuck You” isn’t all in the dirty word itself – it’s in the fact that Cee Lo crafted one helluva catchy pop/soul melody and juxtaposed it with a wonderfully visceral word in an undeniably bouncy, upbeat song. “Forget You” doesn’t have the same punch, and this should make intuitive sense – most of us would rather fuck than forget, wouldn’t we? Changing the word changed the meaning – “fuck you” is an aggressive, active phrase. “Forget you” is almost petulant and passive-aggressive. You don’t tell off your ex by saying “Forget you!” unless you have some kind of humiliation fetish, in which case it might be prudent to wet yourself as you’re saying, “forget you” in order to get the full effect.
I know some people are gonna start stammering, “B-b-but… the children.” Well, as George Carlin once said, “Fuck the children!” (I’m actually, suddenly, not one hundred percent sure George actually ever said this, but it seems like something he would say, doesn’t it?) Seriously, though, if your kids go to public school and listen to top 40 radio or have ever been within one hundred feet of the internet, they know what the word “fuck” is. Censoring Cee Lo Green isn’t gonna keep your little monsters from learning the dirty word he’s saying. In fact, if hiding bad words from kids worked, shouldn’t there be some 19-year-olds out there who don’t know how to cuss? I’m guessing hiding foul language from kids is about as effective as abstinence pledges.
Here’s something we’ve never, to my knowledge, tried in this country: instead of hiding words from kids, let’s maybe explain to them why those words aren’t often appropriate to use. The counterargument I’ve heard to this is that it can be really tiring explaining stuff to children and they might not get it and blah blah blah. That’s weak tea, friends. If you think it’s tiring explaining to a kid why they shouldn’t say “fuck,” maybe you shouldn’t have had a kid in the first place. Last I checked (and I have an ever-increasing number of reliable sources on this subject), having kids is fucking exhausting. That’s literally what it is. If you can’t handle that, you better take the right precautions the next time you’re forgetting your mate.
And anyway, how hard can it be to explain to a kid that they shouldn’t swear? “Look, Junior, there are certain words that pack a certain kind of punch and if you use ’em too often, they lose their power. They’re like power-ups in a video game – you wanna save ’em for when you really need to use ’em. And the good news is, when you’re a kid, you never need to use those words. Trust me, when you’re an adult, the world will give you all kinds of reasons to use those words over and over again until you’re kind of ashamed of how frequently you use them. But now, when you’re a kid, you don’t need those words. So if I catch you using them, you can’t go to the Miley Cyrus concert.” Parents, that’s a dynamite explanation and as my little holiday gift to you, I’ll let you use it the next time your kid gets in trouble for telling the school lunch lady to go fuck herself.
Frankly, if I ever have a kid, my goal will be to teach them not to misuse any language, whether it’s curse words or just your standard, every day communication. I would rather hear a kid say “fuck” than “drownded” any day of the week (and if you’re an adult and you say “drownded”, it should be legal to drown you). It’s sad, at least to me, that people in this country don’t teach their kids to grasp nuance. Kids who aren’t taught to handle nuance turn into adults who can’t handle it either. Look at the goddamn Tea Party and tell me I’m wrong. Is it such a stretch to raise your kids to be intelligent, reasoning beings from day one? And if it is, maybe we should just throw in the towel as a species. We had a good(ish) run.
And while I’m bitching about meaningless attempts to shield people from language, can we abandon the use of stupid substitute characters in our printed swear words? Who in their right mind sees “f**k” and thinks it’s anything but “fuck”? The asterisks very clearly imply that “fuck” is the intended word but somehow everyone acts like it’s okay because we don’t see the “u” and the “c”. And who decided that the “u” and the “c” are the offending letters in the word “fuck” anyway? And does that mean that you can hide the word “cunt” simply by printing it “**nt”? I had no idea that “u” and “c” were such offensive letters. Maybe it’s only when they appear right next to each other.
I know I’ve spent this whole time swearing about swearing, but trust me: The Ladykiller is worth listening to for more than just its most notorious song. It might even be the best pop album of the year, if you care about such (Oops. I mean “s**h”) things. In fact, if I could, I’d make a sticker to place on every copy of The Ladykiller at my local Target and that sticker would read: “The best fucking pop album of 2010.”