By Christine Paluf
Selling tickets like hotcakes, Gnarls Barkley has had quite the ride. Producer Danger Mouse and partner Cee Lo are the face of the chart-topping duo that represent the Gnarls name, but the success that their hit single, “Crazy,” has raised the question, who is this guy anyway?
Gnarls’ popularity is evident by looking at their ticket sales, like for tonight’s sold-out concert at Summer Stage in New York City’s Central Park. The $35 tickets are long-gone, and very few are still available on secondary sites. The leading sites are fresh out, leaving only a couple tickets on TicketsNow for $170 each, and TickCo selling tickets for $200.
Making history on both ends of the charts, the duo debuted on the UK charts at number one after download sales were so high, and after nine weeks at number one, they pulled themselves from the chart. Removed from record stores, the rules only allow a song to remain on the charts for two weeks, and after one week the song remained at number 2, slipped to number 9 and was gone. It was the fastest shoot up to number one, and the fastest drop off the charts completely ever.
But who’s really behind this ‘Gnarls Barkley’ fellow? Does he really exist? One part of the face of Gnarls Barkley is Danger Mouse. He’s also known as Brian Burton, the successful producer if Jay Z’s “Grey Album” which blends the stylings of the rapper with Beatles tracks behind. He has also worked with the Gorillaz, even being named producer of the year for that involvement. He lends his funky, psychedelic and at times hard-hitting influence to each project.
The other half of the duo is Cee Lo Green, or Thomas Calloway, whose gospel and blues influenced singing helped propel “Crazy” to the top. The man is stuffed with soul, drawing his influence from late greats such as James Brown and Sly Stone.
The southeastern US feel to the album has prompted some to ask not only who, but where Gnarls Barley is. Many speculate that South Carolina may be his home, which others have responded that there’s a better chance that he resides in Europe.
Whether he really exists or not is the better question, as Cee Lo and Danger Mouse have admitted the name came from friends who were playing with different combinations. Not strangers to innovation, their US populariaty rose with their appearance at the MTV Movie Awards in full Star-Wars getup. Seeing a StormTrooper snap the bass while Chewy takes the drums gives a good impression of how outlandish and fun this group can get. And they take the same attitude toward their music, mixing styles that span the decades, and bring a diver following.
Their broad appeal has made them a great cross-over group, hitting a chord with the mainstream radio listeners and their parents alike. The call-back to the sounds of smooth soul sprinkled with modern hip hop and funk make it a favorite for the whole family…which isn’t always the coolest place to be.
But a teen-targeted band they are not, though they do have a MySpace presence like every other group out there. Their version of the Violent Femme’s “Gone Daddy Gone” has been listened to over a million times, and that’s only on one of the many sites dedicated to this duo.
But to question whether Gnarls Barkley really exists somewhere, and what part he may have played in the success of the group named for him, is a question left unanswered to date. Whoever or whatever he represents, it’s working.