April 30, 2006
Radio going ‘Crazy’ for Gnarls Barkley
By Jonathan Cohen
NEW YORK (Billboard) - Musicians often joke that the songs
they spend the least amount of time on are the ones that become
the biggest hits. But in the case of R&B/hip-hop duo Gnarls
Barkley, a collaboration between producer Danger Mouse and
rapper Cee-Lo, that's exactly what happened with "Crazy," the
soul-kissed first single from their upcoming debut, "St.
The track already has spent four weeks at No. 1 on the U.K.
singles chart, where earlier in April it became the first song
to debut at the top solely on the basis of download sales. The
following week, it remained No. 1 by selling more than 10 times
as many copies (194,000) in stores as it had previously via
In doing so, it has furthered the notion that digital sales
can fuel, rather than cannibalize, physical transactions. This
is music to the ears of Downtown Records chairman/CEO Josh
Deutsch. His new imprint will issue "St. Elsewhere" jointly
with Atlantic on Tuesday (May 2) in digital form in North
America and the following week as a physical CD. The set
arrived April 24 internationally via Warner Music. (Alternative
Distribution Alliance distributes Downtown Records.)
"We were all terrified a few years back about the digital
distribution future and what that would mean to physical sales,
but this is a very powerful statement for legal downloading,"
Deutsch says. "That's another thing that's exciting about the
single -- the fact that it has become a phenomenon in terms of
its place amid U.K. music history."
All of the hubbub is somewhat amusing to Cee-Lo and Danger
Mouse, who financed "St. Elsewhere" themselves and spent more
than a year batting ideas around in the studio. In fact,
Cee-Lo's vocal on "Crazy" was captured on the first take.
"This was one of the songs where we talked a lot about our
sanity and other peoples' views of us," says Danger Mouse, who
most recently worked behind the scenes on the acclaimed "Demon
Days" album by Gorillaz. "Next thing you know, the track is
going and Cee-Lo's writing stuff down. A couple of hours later,
he went in and sang it, and that's what you hear."
"It blends the emotion of those great old soul records with
very strong 21st century production values," Warner Music U.K.
managing director Korda Marshall says of "Crazy." "Based on the
demographics, we call this a seventh heaven record --
"Some of what we did is definitely more accessible," Danger
Mouse says. "We can understand that. But it wasn't intended
that way. We're fortunate that something came out that's easier
for people to enjoy."
"Crazy" is growing quickly on U.S. radio, and at stations
catering to such disparate genres as R&B and modern rock. MD
Ebro, of R&B/hip-hop WQHT New York, says the song is "in the
vein of (OutKast's) 'Hey Ya!' but it will probably take a
little bit longer to come home for my audience than it would
for other types of audiences."
Gnarls Barkley was scheduled to make its live debut April
30 at California's Coachella festival. Also in the pipeline are
appearances on "Late Night With Conan O'Brien" (May 24),
Lollapalooza (August 5) and the United Kingdom's Creamfields
fest (August 26).