Do you ever look at something – an object perhaps, a person, a place – and think: what is the point? Why, in the 4,600,000,000 years of the planet, does this thing exist at this exact moment in history? Often (when I'm travelling or walking or parked morosely on a toilet seat, or wherever else I do some thinking) I pose these questions about different objects. Spots that unceremoniously appear on my upper leg, for example. Lift operators. Spiders! Fizzy water! What's your use, eight-legged freak? What is your purpose, bastardised water? Why?
The earth is home to many useless objects like these. Perhaps the most recent, though, is CeeLo Green. Once upon a time CeeLo was the loveable, rotund frontman of Gnarls Barkley. Those with a working set of ears in 2006 will remember when (remember when) they lost their mind to the sound of the group's debut single "Crazy". Clocking in at an ideal 2 minutes and 59 seconds, the spaghetti western-sampling track broke download records and helped to define a musical period where pop was serviced to listeners through the click wheel of the iPod classic. It was fresh, new – and most importantly, unavoidable. Even if "Crazy" wasn't in the MP3 player in your pocket, it was in your head.
Like OutKast with "Hey Ya!" three years earlier, Gnarls Barkley proved that the freakishly creative structure and texture of Atlantan songwriting could be injected into a well-marketed pop single to immense commercial success. Building on his catalogue of work with Goodie Mob and early solo records, Green struck gold with Gnarls Barkley. Four years later, he repeated that success with his solo 2010 single "Fuck You" (also known as "Forget You"), a Motown-tinged earworm that arrived in the charts like a bouquet of flowers grown into the shape of a raised middle finger.
Of course, all that's in the past now. An accusation of sexual battery in 2012 (of which he was ultimately cleared) and an ensuing tweetstorm over his comments that "people who have really been raped REMEMBER" in 2014 swayed the court of public opinion away from Green's favour. An appearance on The Voice followed. And now: the below image of Green walking the red carpet at the Grammys as though he immaculately emerged from an act of reproduction between a Ferrero Rocher and C3PO rather than the human womb.
Or – in a bonus, pre-Grammy party round – there's also this darker variant which comes across like a character in Star Wars Episode One who sacrificed his village and farm animals for all the power of the dark side, except the show's producers eventually cut that character from the plot because it was so bad.
Green says the person in these images isn't him. It's Gnarly Davidson, he says; his alter ego who is now releasing his own set of music. Like nearly everything released by an artist who became famous in 2006 yet continues to release music, Green's move toward the alter ego isn't a novel one. From Beyonce (Sasha Fierce) to Snoop Dogg (Snoop Lion) to Prince (Camille) to Green Day (Foxboro Hot Tubs), the gamut of alter egos in music runs through many a peak and trough. Given his penchant for the weird and the strange, it's understandable Green has created an alternative character for himself. In this, there is no fault. There are no laws against dressing up; no wrongdoing in playing someone else for creative purposes for a minute or an album cycle. But – like anything else in art or indeed the world – there has to be a point. So what is the purpose of Gnarly Davidson?
So far it's hard to tell. He's released one single called "Fuck Me, I'm Famous"; he's released another by the name of "Jay Z's Girl". The latter parodies and covers Rick Springfield's "Jessie's Girl"; the former could but perhaps does not bare any relation to this song from the disastrous sounding compilation CD True Hardcore 2. The only thing tying these two tracks together is the fact they're by Gnarly Davidson (CeeLo Green), portrayed in the video by a midget bearing a somewhat loose resemblance to the singer. Taking the lyrics into account the meaning behind the character, seemingly, is the art of douchebaggery. Davidson is a famous fuck. Davidson is a famous fuck who wants Jay Z's girl. And for some – nay, no – apparent reason this famous fuck is also very small.
Again, what's the point here? In its weird earnestness, "Jay Z's Girl" is slightly reminiscent of Lil B's iconic and very rare track "California Boy" but without any of the legitimate heartfelt feeling. "Fuck Me, I'm Famous" is like Joaquin Phoenix's I'm Still Here film, replete with the grand tier of shittiness. Like most artists, Green has reached a point where time has moved on, leaving him to meander down a route of obscure artistry. Presumably Gnarly Davidson has been created for Green's pleasure (it's hard to think what else this hot mess has been created for, to critique, or to add). In a way it's commendable Green is still creating – if nothing else, those costumes are creative! – but when the only positive thing to say about an artist's work is that they're "being an artist" there's a problem. This is especially true of someone at Green's level of fame; here, such blinded creativity glares even brighter. It makes the L in CeeLo Green worth the capitalisation, and worth taking.
Of course, there's the get-out clause: this is all a joke, it's satire, it's comedy, it's a small man who wants to fuck Beyonce and is a famous fuck who is fucking famous. He represents the Very Important but small and dicked-down players in the music industry. But even as a parody Gnarly Davidson isn't saying anything new – it just feels confused. The quirky, alien-like feel of his music that made Green so exciting in the first place has moved beyond rational creativity and into the realms of pointless, meaningless enigma. I am looking at him and I am thinking: sir, why are you here? What does your presence communicate? Why, why, why?
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(Header image by Anthony Quintano via Wikimedia Commons)