Cee Lo Green's viral smash, "Fuck You," may seem like it came out of the blue. But in reality, the singer had sat on the song for almost a year before it made its explosive arrival.
The track -- whose clip has generated 4 million-plus YouTube views since Aug. 20 -- is one of more than five dozen that Green has accumulated for his third solo album, "The Lady Killer" (Elektra/Roadrunner). In fact, it was originally intended to be a "tastemaker" for the CD, tentatively slated for Dec. 7.
"It was meant to be a flare in the air," says Green. "Who would have known it would become an entire festival?"
Rush-released to radio Aug. 25 in edited ("Forget You") and explicit versions, the expletive-ridden song debuts at No. 69 on Hot Digital Songs and No. 96 on the Hot 100, selling 21,000 in a partial week of sales. The song was made available to digital retailers Aug. 27, with a CD single to follow exclusively at independent record stores Sept. 21 and a clean version coming to retail later this fall.
Green admits that surprising people is what he always strives for as an artist. "I want to be able to shock people and rock the boat. We should not be so comfortably numb with the way things are," Green explains.
An official video for the song premiered earlier this week, featuring grade school and high school versions of Green getting their heart broken by the girls they love. While the singer wasn't directly in charge of casting, he had a large part in deciding who got the role.
"I [did] have a final say in who I would think best represent me. I picked quite a few of the people that you see," says Green.
Co-written and produced by the Smeezingtons (Travie McCoy's "Billionaire" and B.o.B.'s "Nothin' on You") and featuring Smeezingtons co-principal and Elektra labelmate Bruno Mars, "Fuck You" is also spurring fevered interest in "Lady Killer," according to Green."I'm getting petitions; people are sliding notes up under my door," deadpans Green. "Women are ripping my clothes off ... I just don't know what to do."
One thing he has to do is settle on a final track listing for the album, which Green describes as having a "big black James Bond" sound. Mars' debut single "Just the Way You Are" and McCoy's "Dr. Feel Good," which features the singer, were originally written with Green in mind but didn't feel right for him.
"I personally think ["Just the Way You Are"] was better for [Mars], like "Fuck You" was better for me. I don't think he could have sung that song," said Green.
Several of the songs from the five dozen he's working from appear on a free mixtape he has released, "Stray Bullets." It includes "You Don't Shock Me Anymore" and the singer also did a cover of Band of Horses' "No One's Gonna Love You."
However, Green's calendar is already pretty much filled for the rest of the year. He's recording a new album with his former group Goodie Mob and has been in talks with Danger Mouse to start work on another Gnarls Barkley release for early 2011. He's also hosting Fuse's "Lay It Down" in October. The 30-minute R&B/hip-hop-oriented interview/performance show has already confirmed N.E.R.D., Lil Jon and Ludacris as guests. "It's a true artist interviewing other artists more honestly, more organically," promises Green.
In the meantime, the singer/songwriter/producer is enjoying the success of his politically incorrect hit single -- though he had his doubts that it would make an impact. "It was more certain that a song called 'Fuck You' wouldn't work than it would," he says. "But it worked right where I would prefer it: with the people."