Number 5: Cee-Lo Green – “Fuck You!”

If there’s one thing that Hairspray and Amy Winehouse have taught us, it’s that people still like Motown, when it’s marketed the right way.

If there’s one thing Youtube has taught us, it’s that people like gratuitous swearing. Especially if there are children involved.

Enter Cee-Lo Green and Elektra Records. “Fuck You!” is Green’s runaway monster hit of 2010 that will establish him on the national pop culture scene, no doubt. No longer shall he be known as “the singer from Gnarls Barkley” (best band name ever by the way). He is now on a first-name basis with America. Multiple Grammys are almost a surefire lock.

But why? Well, I’ma tell you.

Like GB’s smash 2006 hit “Crazy,” (which, just for the record, I heard everywhere from the shapeless strip mall Great Cuts Or Whatever Where I Got My Hair Cut In College to college radio) “Fuck You!” has just the right amount of mainstream accessibility, melody, quirk and musicality to endear both music critics and casual music consumers. In a master stroke, Elektra produced a stylized, retro music video that tells a story which shows Green sprouting from an underdog sapling to a fully germinated XXL pop sensation.

The feeling of being ditched for something newer and sexier (I guess he’s an XBox. I’m more Atari) is easy to relate to, as is the feeling of callow catharsis that can be attained by bathing your ex (from the solitary solace and warm glow of your laptop) in a hot steaming pile of profanity. I’m sure someone, somewhere expressed concern that having profanity so interwoven into the song’s framework would limit its radio appeal. Smartly, the record people in charge correctly decided that the F-Bomb itself would actually be the key to the song going viral. Then the radio edit — for people who actually still listen to the radio — will follow.

Green’s previous association with GB gives people a social media springboard. Have you seen the new video/heard the new song by the guy from Gnarles Barkley? It swears! It’s awesome!

Sorry to ramble on about the appeal behind the song instead of the song itself.  But I can’t help myself. it’s like some kind of 21st century record label Frankenstein built this song in the lab before unleashing it on the unwitting, naive world. And it’s marketable, so very marketable, showing there’s still a buck to be made in the music business.

I suppose it’s worth mentioning that “Fuck You!” was part of Green’s 2010 release “The Lady Killer.” Admittedly, I haven’t heard it. And I suspect a lot of people who downloaded “Fuck You!” from iTunes for their ringtone haven’t either.

People don’t know why they like it. They just do. Here’s the secret: it’s because of the confluence of savvy marketing, accessibility, relatability, but most importantly, because it’s a really, really good pop song. Green is a natural showman who, thanks to America’s penchant for making stuff exactly like “Fuck You!” go viral, has guaranteed himself a lasting music career under his own name.


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