Wednesday, October 7, 2009

13. Gnarls Barkley "Crazy" (2006)

Gnarls Barkley, a collaboration between producer Danger Mouse and singer/rapper Cee-Lo Green, originally thought to title their debut record Who Cares?, which referred to the reception they expected the album would garner. Their pessimism was spectacularly off the mark. (Much like Led Zeppelin, whose name refers to the fact they thought their first album would sink like a lead balloon.) The album, retitled St. Elsewhere, was a critical and commercial success. Its first single, "Crazy" became the inescapable summer hit of 2006.

The genius of "Crazy" begins and ends with Cee-Lo's marvelous vocal. It's a song that demands a sing-along, with a vocal that ensures utter failure. Cee-Lo's instrument, which seems to effortlessly climb octaves like rungs on a ladder, is damn-near impossible to mimic (at least with an average man's vocal chords). His vocal virtuosity gives the song a delirious sound to match the delirium of its subject matter.

Not to play down Danger Mouse's virtues. He's a brilliant producer who can seamlessly blend sounds to create something novel, best evidenced by his mash-up of the Beatle's White Album with Jay-Z's Black Album, the appropriately-titled Grey Album. With "Crazy," he deftly samples the spaghetti western sound of Ennio Morricone, which gives the song a cinematic quality. (Indeed, the duo defined their image with the movies. Whenever they performed live, they dressed in film-character-inspired costumes, from Back to the Future to Star Wars.)

Cheerfully odd, yet infinitely accessible, "Crazy" remains the decade's Good-Time Song, par excellence.

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