But while they successfully shoehorn Cee-Lo's gravelly gospel wail and rapid-fire raps into templates like "I'll Be Around" and "The One," even hip-hop's finest producers can't stop Cee-Lo -- they can only contain him in the clubs for a while. And when he breaks out of the commercial dungeon, the real party resumes. "Sometimes I don't even have a hook . . . sometimes you fail trying," he declares. In fact, his alternating R&B homages and boundary-stretching rarely miss, whether he's crooning a Muscle Shoals ballad about having a "Blockbuster Night" and a morning cuddle, or screaming the scarifying chorus of "Scrap Metal" -- "Almost instantly/I could say fuck it all!" -- atop stabbing, heavy-metal horns.
"Child's Play," a nursery-rhyme romp with Ludacris that borrows its demented swing from OutKast's "The Whole World," should provide a hit to match Cee-Lo's idiosyncrasies. He deserves it -- just ask him. "Sometimes I don't think people know I'm as good as I really am," he growls. Soul Machine and its commercial decoys should address this quite nicely.