You could almost file The Odd Couple, the latest release by Gnarls Barkley, under “old school R&B.” Gnarls Barkley (a duo comprised of producer Danger Mouse and vocalist Cee-Lo Green) brilliantly reference that old R&B style, while adding modern musical elements of their own. Hear that mixing of styles in “A Little Better.”
Following up their critically acclaimed debut album, St. Elsewhere, must have been a daunting task. Even though there isn’t a smash hit like that album’s “Crazy,” The Odd Couple is a more consistent, and better record.
Many aspects of the album are worth highlighting, but Cee-Lo’s lyrics seem to shine brightest of all. “Blind Mary” takes smart lyrics and mixes them with a beat that’s straight out of Motown.
I love Mary. Blind Mary marry me.
I love Mary. Yeah.
She has never seen the sunshine,
Yet she’s getting along just fine.
She’s not staying, she’s just passing through.
Hey, do you mind if I follow you?
I heard a voice say catch me if you can.
Before you know it I was holding her hand.
It’s harder to imagine than understand,
How she knows exactly who I am.
She’s my friend, she doesn’t judge me.
She has no idea I’m ugly.
So I’ve absolutely nothing to hide,
Because I’m so much prettier inside.
My favorite track on the album is “Who’s Gonna Save My Soul,” a very moving song about heartbreak and self-doubt. It it possible to convey emotion through singing better than Cee-Lo’s vocals on this song? I doubt it.
I mentioned the old-school aspect of this album, and “Surprise” is a prime example. With its background “bah ba bah” vocals, percussion, guitar work, and lead vocals, it sounds like it could have been recorded forty years ago.
Whether you file it under old school or neo soul, The Odd Couple is definitely an outstanding album.