Cee Lo Rings In The Holiday Season Early With Christmas Album
Published: Wednesday, November 7, 2012
Updated: Wednesday, January 9, 2013 18:01
Cee Lo Green’s Christmas album, like his personality, can be described in one word: unconventional. Just check out the album cover, a depiction of Green clad in a white fur coat, sitting shotgun in a ruby-red Rolls Royce that is being pulled by three white horses and piloted by a reindeer through a sparkly purple sky. As the cover suggests, Green’s holiday album, titled Cee Lo’s Magic Moment, is vibrant, soulful, eccentric, kid-friendly, and at times comical, though the album is by no means intended to be a parody.
The energy of the bouncy opening track, “What Christmas Means to Me,” suggests that Green is not just churning out cookie cutter renditions of overplayed Christmas songs, but is in fact overflowing with authentic Christmas cheer. This is an impressive quality, considering that a majority of pop artists who will release a Christmas album in the year 2012 do so only to appease their record labels or poke fun at the season. This authentic enthusiasm, however, is carried throughout the album, which consists mostly of Christmas classics revamped with Green’s signature doo-wop meets Motown style. Green’s unique voice paired with vibrant saxophone riffs and a jingly backbeat provide a just-fresh-enough take on the holiday standards “Run Rudolph Run,” “All I Want for Christmas is You,” and “Please Come Home for Christmas.” These upbeat tracks may not be the most memorable, but serve as perfectly suitable background music for decorating the tree.
In many tracks, Green has recruited special guests to join in on the fun. Unfortunately, some of these team efforts are less successful than others. Take, for example, an interpretation of “Baby It’s Cold Outside” featuring Christina Aguilera, Green’s fellow judge on the hit singing competition show The Voice. The pairing of the two powerhouse voices results in a less than conversational duet which sounds like a competition of whose vocal runs are longest and loudest.
This problem does not exist in the upbeat, soul-infused rendition of “Merry Christmas Baby,” featuring Rod Stewart and Trombone Shorty. The unlikely duo of Green and Stewart switch off lines and harmonize smoothly and effortlessly, neither out-singing the other. Another surprisingly successful duet can be found in the track “All I Need Is Love,” featuring none other than The Muppets, a gang whose spastic weirdness and charisma coincide perfectly with the angle of the album. The unusual layering of a “Mambo No. 5”-esque beat, The Muppets’ famous, “mah-nah, mah-nah,” and Cee Lo’s crooning vocals create an almost overwhelmingly enthusiastic yet undeniably enjoyable vibe that is sure to put a spring in any Scrooge’s step. The most successful attempt, not only to collaborate with other artists, but also to bring a fresh take to a Christmas classic, is Green’s performance of “You’re a Mean One, Mr. Grinch.” Featuring a cappella group Straight No Chaser, Cee Lo’s syrupy dramatic style and superb storytelling skills complement the quirky song perfectly.
Green covers all of the obligatory carols from “The Christmas Song” to “White Christmas” in energetic, soulful fashion. His voice is so full of energy that it can be overpowering at times—a lot of full-fledged belting is involved. Green’s talent as an artist is most apparent, however, in the slower songs where he shows more restraint. In his renderings of “Mary Did You Know” and Joni Mitchell’s “River,” Green manages to make even these most sappy, over-played of classics chill-inducing.
Green has said of himself, “No one does soul like Cee Lo Green,” and Cee Lo’s Magic Moment surely supports this statement. Overall, this collection of modified classics offers a level of enthusiasm, emotion, and pure soul that rarely appears in the pop genre today, much less in a Christmas album. It covers all the requirements of a successful Christmas album while avoiding the blandness that threatens to come with interpreting “Silent Night” for the umpteenth time. Speaking as someone whose stance on Christmas music has always been unwaveringly lukewarm, it must be said that Magic Moment’s infectious energy had me shamelessly tapping my foot to the sound of sleigh bells before Thanksgiving.