Tuesday, August 9, 2011
Cee Lo's 'Cry Baby' Video: When Nostalgia Gets Tired
By Patrice Evans
From his Dungeon Family roots to the time he pimped his children on a MTV Reality Show to the Gnarls Barkley era to this current turn as the idiosyncratic neo-soul Zach Galifianakis rap-sing centaur sent to make perfect-barbecue-weather pop songs every few years, Cee Lo Green has been the most dynamic weirdo on the charts. Since he broke out with “Crazy,” you can count the major summer anthems on two hands: “Rehab,” “Umbrella,” “American Boy,” “Single Ladies,” “Poker Face,” “Fuck You,” and whatever's hot right now. The fact that Cee Lo Green has two of those songs is very I don't know, I guess it's very Cee Lo Green of him.
So it's weird that his new video for "Cry Baby" is such an obvious retread. Where is the Soul Food maestro’s unique blend of herbs and spices?
Inspired by the video’s lazy formula, we're going to spell out our tsk tsk'ing through the old-school hip-hop method of using “C-R-Y B-A-B-Y” as an acronym for why we are crying, baby, about how boring this video is.
C is for the Cee Lo, who didn't even bother to show up
R is for the retro '50s shtick in videos. Y’all need to grow up. (I’m not gonna rhyme, but couldn’t resist that one.)
But this trend is about done in music videos, yes? Perhaps we can retain our pride through letting the “conceit” of it rest in peace with Amy Winehouse? Why not move on to mining '70s-era disco for our neo-retro-soul updates? Let’s let doo-wop die.
Y is for the “Yo, this might have worked if they used Jaleel White as a character in the video.” Like maybe he’s crying about Urkel being his legacy. (This could also be for “Y did I make that rap parenthetical joke?”) Also, adding Jaleel-White as himself would have ported the nostalgia into two separate eras: doo-wop and TGIF, providing a nice bridge out of Cee Lo’s tired set of old-timey references. At the end of the video, the camera could have focused in on a dancing cop by the name of Carl Winslow. Then, Cee Lo’s next video could just be about Family Matters and the search for the missing middle daughter.
Here’s an example of a similar cross-over move:
B is for the Brooklyn in Technicolor. In the '80s and early '90s, we needed to see signs of positive life. Spike Lee, thank you. Cosby Show Brooklyn, thank heavens. But I just took the train to confirm this and can confidently report: Brooklyn doesn't look like this. And I wasn't there, but I’m guessing it didn't in the '50s either. Needs more dirt, abandoned buildings, and, concrete. Also, dogs that come and tear your ass up for acting an out-of-turn fool in the street.
A is for Alfonso Ribeiro, courtesy of a commenter on Youtube, who noted that “Carlton” would have been the more inspired choice for this role. The whole dancing crescendo might have gotten the extra gear it needed with the Carlton Dance. Also, maybe his “assimilated” cachet can tie the whole '50s shtick and fairytale-flashback vibe together. He conveys a more mature Urkel who fits in. Jaleel White might be fighting the typecasting; he’s a bit nuanced in this performance:
B is for But also put the whole genre of faux-karaoke lip-sync dub video ideas in the incinerator with the '50s clothes shtick.
Y is for Why did you not notice you did this all in your last video? Very odd.
Weirder still, 'cause I like this song. It's clearly ripe for Cee Lo-style creative interpretations. Between "Forget You" and "Cry Baby" there’s some angry bitter darkness that needs to creep into these video treatments. Let’s see that.