In August of last year CeeLo Green pleaded no contest to a felony charge of furnishing a woman with a controlled substance (MDMA) against her will. She also alleges that he sexually assaulted her, but there wasn’t enough evidence to charge him for that as is often the case. As if that wasn’t enough, he later let fly a stream of tweets about rape and consent that were so heinous TBS canceled his reality show The Good Life and several festivals dropped him from their lineups. You think he’d learn to stay under the radar after that kind of colossal, despicable scandal.
Instead, Green has decided to cash in on the death of beloved comedian Robin Williams with a “tribute” song that reads as nothing but craven. Not only does Green employ the death of Williams to tug at heartstrings, he also name-checks the late John Belushi, Richard Pryor, and Phillip Seymour Hoffman. Here’s the chorus: “We don’t know what the next man’s going through / Wish I could say it in a plainer way / We don’t know/ Life reminds me of Robin Williams / We’ve got to laugh the pain away.” It’s the most transparent, cheesy attempt at redemption I’ve ever fucking heard. I’ve cringed every single time I’ve listened. At the end of song he literally sings “Robin, can you hear me?” Who thought this was a good idea?
Later on in the track CeeLo worries, “I’m afraid of not being able to laugh anymore / What’s life going to be like when we don’t have anymore heroes?” Yes, a man who is convicted of preying on women is mourning the loss of heroes in our society. Also, we will never “run out” of heroes. Commendable human beings aren’t a finite resource. How does naming a few comedians that have passed away have anything to do with our ability to keep laughing, or our ability to find other role models? CeeLo Green doesn’t even deserve to have his name in the same sentence as Robin Williams. Yet here he is, making a statement about the song: “‘Robin Williams’ is a homage to our humanity centered [on] the strength it takes to smile in the face of adversity.” Does Green consider being convicted for a crime and being despised for disgusting opinions the equivalent of facing adversity? Also, here’s literally no connection between Green and Williams, at least not one I’ve been able to find.
The attention-grabbing focus on Williams is a disgusting way to profit off tragedy, but what’s even worse, he’s trying to flip his “grief” over Williams into a redemption narrative for himself. Also, the Robin Williams Trust has restricted use of Williams’ likeness for 25 years, and while this song isn’t directly in conflict with that, it certainly seems to violate the spirit of that request. The song is the lead single off Green’s Charlie Puth-featuring new album Heart Blanche, which will be out in November. There’s also an interactive video directed by Vania Heymann and created by media and technology company Interlude over at Mashable. It basically types out the lyrics into a Google simulator. It’s almost as unsettling.
TL;DR: the release of this song has made music worse, but listen for yourself if you must.
Heart Blanche is out 11/13 via Atlantic Records.