Two years after their Grammy-winning debut, the costumed, enigmatic duo known as Gnarls Barkley returns with The Odd Couple. But now that the honeymoon is over, will fans still go crazy over their music?
The magic number is 4,218. That’s how many miles Thomas “Cee-Lo” Calloway traveled for stardom.It’s the distance from his Atlanta home to London, where his costume, disarmingly charming reincarnation made pop-music history. In 2003, Cee-Lo linked up with producer Brian “Danger Mouse” Burton and started laying down psychedelic cuts for what would eventually become Gnarls Barkley’s 2006 debut album, St. Elsewhere.
Cee-Lo’s near-weeping falsetto on the duo’s debut single, “Crazy,” helped propel the track in April 2006 to the No. 1 slot on the UK charts. The first single ever to reach the top spot in England based on digital-download sales alone, “Crazy” fared just as well in the US and became the summer’s surprise smash. The album, meanwhile, spent 47 weeks on the Billboard 200 chart.
Gnarls Barkley’s rapid success was a bit surreal for the seasoned performer. For almost a decade Cee-Lo existed as a respected MC, releasing three albums as part of the southern rap group Goodie Mob. In 2002 he put out his first solo project, Cee-Lo Green and His Perfect Imperfections, followed by 2004’s Cee-Lo Green…Is The Soul Machine, both of which focused on his singing talent rather than his rapping prowess. Although both albums were critically acclaimed, it was Cee-Lo’s peer Andre 3000 who saw his ’60s-flavored rock single, “Hey Ya,” become a hit.