Cee Lo Green & Melanie Fiona Get Old-School Funky on Grammy-Nominated "Fool For You""/>
Nice Hits! is a Reverb column that unironically dissects, reviews, and appreciates the best songs of the current Top 40. It is unsnobbishly premised on>"/>
Nice Hits! is a Reverb column that unironically dissects, reviews, and appreciates the best songs of the current Top 40. It is unsnobbishly premised on the logic that just because a lot of the music on the radio is crap doesn't mean all the music on the radio is crap.
Current chart position: #14 on Billboard's Top Hip-Hop and R&B Songs & Singles Chart; uncharted on iTunes. "Fool For You" is nominated for Best Traditional R&B Performance and Best R&B Song at next month's 2012 Grammy Awards.
The team: Thomas Calloway, who is much better known as Cee Lo Green, wrote "Fool For You" with the LA musician Jack Splash, who in his spare time fronts a funk band called PlantLife and also produced the track. Splash has notably composed and produced songs for Alicia Keys (2007's As I Am), Estelle ("Pretty Please (Love Me)," which also featured Cee Lo), R. Kelly (2009's Untitled), and Jennifer Hudson ("I'm His Only Woman," which featured Missy Elliott). Cee Lo and Splash wrote "Fool For You" about six years ago (Jamie Foxx recorded it) and then revisited it while recording The Lady Killer.
Melanie Fiona, who appears on the single version of "Fool For You" (the version that's Grammy-nominated), is a 28-year-old Torontonian R&B singer of Guyanese descent who is relatively unknown but has built up an impressive resume since releasing her debut album, The Bridge, in 2009. Her 2009 single "It Kills Me" was nominated for a Grammy for Best Female R&B Vocal Performance (it lost to Beyoncé's "Single Ladies," natch), she has served as an opener on tours with Kanye West and Alicia Keys, and she is managed by Jay-Z's Roc Nation. Fiona will release her second LP, The MF Life, on February 7.
Breakdown: "Fool For You" has an overtly old-school soul vibe, as does much of The Lady Killer; the most famous song off that record is, of course, the enormously successful doo-wopping diss track "Fuck You!" Sentimentally, "Fool For You" is much different song. I like to think of it as the rueful response to "Fuck You!," as in, "I'm sorry I gave you a huge, profane middle finger via an international smash hit, now here's my apology." Whereas "Fuck You!" is performed with a intentional flippancy, "Fool For You" has Cee Lo singing in a purposeful, clipped manner through emphatic rushes of words--"That real, that deep, that burning, that amazing, unconditional, inseparable love. . . I love her in and out and up and down and 'round and 'round and over and over again"--that syncopate along with the backing jabs of brass and percussion. His intense delivery breaks only when the chorus comes and his voice swings into a sweet falsetto on top of a tinkling piano line. The chorus, "I'm a fool/such a fool for you," comes with a double meaning--I'm crazy, but I'm also crazy about you.
Lucky for Cee Lo, the girl buys it. Fiona's verses are equally smitten--"Baby, I don't even have a choice/And if I did, it'd still be you/'Cause you the man/Among these other boys/Sweet sugar, I surrender/White flag, oh, I won't even put up a fight." It doesn't really matter what he did, because she's also the fool here. It's Cee Lo's song, but he gracefully allows Fiona to shine here--she's got a irresistibly sultry and commanding voice and delivers her punchy, stuttering lines to perfection.
"Fool For You" didn't receive much radio play, probably because of its distinctly retro sound--it doesn't have the catchy pop chorus of "Fuck You!," and the swinging horns and jazzy keys are more 70s funk club than twenty-tens electro-beat dancefloor. Cee Lo's original version of "Fool For You" actually features Earth, Wind & Fire's Philip Bailey instead of Melanie Fiona--Cee Lo has called Bailey his "all-time favorite vocalist" and said a line of "Fool For You"--"I wrote a song about it, mama"--is a direct reference to EWF's saccharine 1977 track "I'll Write a Song For You." Maybe "Fool For You" looks backwards more than forwards, but it's those rich and funky qualities that give it such a classic and timeless feel.