Published Nov 06, 2015"Phil Hartman, can you hear me," CeeLo Green croons on the peculiar track "Robin Williams." It's ostensibly a ditty about losing our heroes — "Life reminds me of Robin Williams / We need to laugh the pain away" — but comes off a bit clunky, and frankly, much of the rest of the album does, too. Heart Blanche is Green's first full-length since making some reprehensible comments on social media (mis)defining assault and consent last year. This is crucial context; this project functions as a clear mea culpa, constructed with reputational rehab in mind.
So, for the most part, Heart Blanche is safe sounding soul, easily digestible pop sound bites that leverage CeeLo's distinct vocals for celebratory "remember when?" tracks like "Est. 1980s," which walks us along a memory lane of icons who shaped his musical outlook (including Run DMC, Aaron Neville and Michael Jackson). The Mark Ronson-produced "Mother May I" rides a groovy bass line to deliver a cool neo-soul vibe and "Thorns" offers up a doo-wop-inspired feel, while "CeeLo Green Sings The Blues" evokes a throwback Holland–Dozier–Holland sound with "woe is me" lyrics like "My name is CeeLo Green and I've got the blues / Nobody appreciates me."
Green is too talented to not make a decent-sounding album, but Heart Blanche, while delivering Green's usually masterful take on gospel-influenced and pop-minded R&B, feels listless and lacks passion. (Warner)