Cee Lo Green took his enjoyment of classic Motown soul music and added a modern edge to make one of the year’s most popular, and best, singles. The bluntly titled “F— You” has won over both music fans and critics with its soulful take on spite. The song is nominated for a Grammy for both Record and Song of the Year.
The song’s success is due to its ability to please conservative listeners despite repeating the obscene title 16 times. Much of this is based on Green’s ability to mimic the soul singers he idolizes. Eminem just sounds angry when rapping, but Green switches from his comical regular voice to a high falsetto, making his obscenities sound more benign.
The rest of the music follows suit in the song’s pursuit of the Motown feel. An even mix of percussion and standard drumming, coupled with an organ and background vocalists singing harmonies. One of the songs most humorous moments is when the female singers repeat the line “Ain’t that some s—?” during the refrain, mimicking the ’70s soul sound perfectly and delivering the line with a straight face, making it all the more hilarious.
The rest of the lyrics are filled with subtle wit by Green and his co-writer, pop star Bruno Mars.
Green questions why his love prefers another man over him, comparing himself to an Atari and the rival as an Xbox. During the bridge, Green furthers the humorous effect by breaking down into a melodramatic whine. The entire staging of the song is one of good humor. There is plenty of bad language thrown around, but the intentions are good.
The song might be funny, but it isn’t a joke. Anyone who hasn’t heard the uncensored album version should seek it out. The watered-down radio track, “Forget You,” just doesn’t pack the same punch.