CeeLo Green came to Manhattan’s NeueHouse with a mission. The self-proclaimed soul machine treated over 60 musicgoers to an exclusive first listen of his forthcoming LP, Heart Blanche. The Goodie Mob maestro can’t hide his excited for this particular album, his first venture in nearly five years (excluding his 2012 Christmas album, CeeLo’s Magic Moment) and his fifth as a solo act.
The Georgia native has laid relatively low after a string of controversial press surrounding him in 2014. He plead no contest to a felony drug charge that accused the singer of slipping the woman ecstasy. Shortly after, he tweeted then deleted a few remarks about rape victims. His comments even prompted organizers to drop him from several shows and scheduled event appearances.
Now, Green is focused on his comeback. During a nearly hour-long conversation with on-air veteran, Sway Calloway, the Sway In The Morning ringleader saluted CeeLo’s artistic contributions. “Anyone who’s doing something weird, you did it first,” Sway told CeeLo. “You’ve always remained the same at the core.”
Decked in black from head-to-toe and donning his signature aviators, Green offered some insight into eight of the album’s tracks, all of which took about three years to make. The songs maintained an uplifting theme, zooming into the concepts of positivity, love and harmony. Here’s a teaser of Heart Blanche before it drops Nov. 13.
— CeeLo Green (@CeeLoGreen) September 23, 2015
1. “Music To My Soul”: The affirmation “even in darkness” is echoed constantly in this feel-good pop track, which salutes Green’s debut Even In Darkness from the collaborative ATL supergroup, Dungeon Family (numerous acts and producers included Goodie Mob, Outkast, Sleepy Brown and Killer Mike). CeeLo wanted to acknowledge the history of his career that “not everyone knows” as well as pay tribute to those who were instrumental in his early successes. “I wanted this song to be a surprise to them,” he said. “Big Boi said it almost bought tears to his eyes.”
2. “Sign Of The Times”: Plucked straight from an early 2015 Soundcloud project TV On The Radio in which Green rapped and sang over famous television theme songs, “Sign Of The Times” serves as a double entendre for the “death and detriment” to not only the music industry, but our souls on a day-to-day basis. The song samples the slightly melancholy yet memorable theme song from the show Taxi. When paired with Green’s funky flair, it serves as a bird’s eye view of the musician’s perspective on life and the industry. “I feel morally inclined to try to expound on what entertainment or music surely could be,” he explained.
3. “Robin Williams”: One of the most emotionally powerful tracks (and one of Green’s personal favorites) deals the unseen struggles a person you know may be facing, much like the inner turmoil the late great Robin Williams faced before his tragic suicide in 2014. Green, who choked up while explaining his reason for writing the empathetic track, said that Williams’ death was an “inconvenient truth,” and that the song is a “homage to our humanity and a song centered on the strength it takes to smile in the face of adversity.”
4. “CeeLo Green Sings The Blues”: Green dumps his soul on this bluesy joint, because simply pouring it out won’t do. His vocal abilities are raw and unmatched. On this track, which almost plays like a modern-day version of Elvis Presley’s “Can’t Help Falling In Love,” serves as a love letter to his fans and to those who may not always understand him as a person. “The extremities that I go to, whether it be a wig or a wedding dress or a chicken suit, it’s all for that love, that embrace, your freedom, happiness and joy,” he told Sway of his adoration for his day-ones. “I have the audacity to be honest, which takes more than courage. I don’t do it for money—I do it because it’s my duty and mission.”
5. “Smells Like Fire”: While the songs on his 2010 hit album The Lady Killer dealt with a similar romantic theme, this passionate piece (produced in the Bahamas) boasts stronger, more solid production and drum loop overlays. “This is just about dancing real close with someone,” he said, before referring to himself in third person, “CeeLo Green is a very sexy person. We’re just having fun.”
6. “Mother May I”: Produced by Mark Ronson in Palm Springs, this song features an infectious drum and tambourine combination. It also serves as an acknowledgement to CeeLo’s mother. He constantly asks his guardian angel throughout the song to help him make the right decisions and choices as he grows and thrives, a place we’ve all been before.
7. “Race Against Time”: Taking cues from the mellow vibes of a Gnarls Barkley album, this upbeat party starter is a celebration of life. According to Green, the song’s purpose is to remind listeners to “have fun” and “live life on your own terms.”
8. “Working Class Heroes (Work)”: This funky uptempo tune serves as an ode to the hustlers on their grind 24/7 and still make a living without getting proper acknowledgement. “I wanted to make a joyous occasion of getting up and earning your keep.” It also sums up Green’s positive outlook on his return to the industry and “getting out the mud again.”
CeeLo Green’s Heart Blanche drops Nov. 13.