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Let’s All Pay Attention to Cee Lo Before He Explodes

When marketing a celebrity comeback goes wrong

(Getty Images)
(Getty Images)

We need to talk about Cee Lo Green. For two months now, he’s been seeking our attention in many desperately absurd ways, and I fear that if we don’t finally acknowledge his presence, the man may literally explode.

On Tuesday, Cee Lo, who now goes by Gnarly Davidson, shared a new song, “Jay Z’s Girl,” a cover of “Jessie’s Girl,” but with updated lyrics written to covet Beyoncé. The music video stars Little Fun, an alter ego of/stand-in for Gnarly Davidson, who’s already an offshoot of the duo Gnarls Barkley, led by Cee Lo Green, whose real name is Thomas Callaway. Little Fun draws Beyoncé (and Jay Z) fan art and makes a shrine to the couple in his bedroom. It is quirky and cute in the sense that all popular Cee Lo performances are quirky and cute. As a bit of clickbait that’s as captivating as it is legitimately creepy, the music video is especially effective.

The YouTube description for “Jay Z’s Girl” don’t even mention the song itself; instead it links to a different song called “Fuck Me I’m Famous,” an original single billed as Gnarly Davidson’s “debut,” released back in December. So far, the original single has been unsuccessful: As of my writing here, “Fuck Me I’m Famous” has about 65,000 views, and “Jay Z’s Girl” — which has been out for less than 24 hours now — has quickly earned more than 100,000 views. Unsurprisingly, the stunt has eclipsed the single. Unfortunately, this has become a theme for Cee Lo these past few months.

On December 17 — the weekend before the singer would premiere “Fuck Me I’m Famous” — social media lit up with surveillance footage of Cee Lo sitting in a recording studio and talking on a phone that explodes in his face. This quickly became a viral news story that we all eventually realized was a hoax, confirmed once Cee Lo released a statement on Facebook Live later that day to admit that his team produced the footage to promote his Gnarly Davidson rebrand. This explained the release of “Fuck Me I’m Famous” just a couple of days later, but it hasn’t exactly bolstered the song in the months since then.

At the Grammys red carpet Sunday night, Cee Lo arrived on a motorcycle, wearing full-body gold lamé complete with Burger King kids’ meal off-brand supervillain mask. (He wore a similar, black outfit to the Grammys pre-show a day earlier.) Once again, Cee Lo was begging to be memed; there’s no way an off-peak musician goes wandering up and down a Grammys red carpet in that kind of getup short of a strong desire to be questioned, spoofed, and overanalyzed. Here we are.

Cee Lo has been making music for a quarter of a century, and thousands, perhaps millions of people have gladly listened to it! He cohosted The Voice for four seasons. No one has forgotten who he is or what he does or why people enjoy it. He fell off after the massive success of “Fuck You” because of allegations that he sexually assaulted a woman in 2012 and because he then tweeted recklessly about what does and does not qualify as rape. (The Los Angeles district attorney declined to pursue sexual assault charges against Cee Lo, who pleaded no contest to furnishing Ecstasy to his accuser.)

Pop culture seems to have let Cee Lo off the hook at this point, disregarding his closed criminal case in favor of his zany album rollout. It’s unfortunate, then, that Cee Lo resurfaces as a troll whose most notable songs since 2010, including “Fuck You,” “Fuck Me I’m Famous,” and “Jay Z’s Girl,” have all been about male celebrity entitlement to sex. My faith in media is at an all-time low, and the last thing anyone needs is yet another persona pushing yet another cycle of fake news gamed by Macedonian teens and vicious publicists. The Voice shut Cee Lo out of his star cohosting gig in 2014 because the network was tired of his shit, and now, so am I!