This is a man who has been shot out of a canon onstage, spent Christmas Eve with the Muppets, and coached dozens of promising young singers, in a way that I’m about to argue is superior to the other coaches on “The Voice” (the only semi-reality show I’ve ever enjoyed). But first, more reasons why I love this man:
CeeLo wears gold chains that are as thick as my arm, but they’re somehow unpretentious on him. His voice is clear, soulful, and can get low; I could listen to it for hours. He plays the piano effortlessly and has a smushface white cat, exactly like a bad guy in a James Bond movie. And, at the center of everything, he’s just so real; he’ll wear a Jerry-curl wig one night and a white bouffant the next, and both are genuinely badass. He’s a professional in a cutthroat industry, but has never become bitter, or less true to his giant heart. Did I mention he sang this duet with Kermit the Frog?
CeeLo’s father was a pastor, and I wonder if this is where he picked up some of his graceful aura. The other coaches on “The Voice” (Blake Shelton, Christina Aguilera, Adam Levine) are all talented musicians and successes in the music industry, but only CeeLo brings this certain, rare dignity to coaching. Adam leaps out of his chair with anger, Blake pulls his CMA Artist of the Year award out from under his chair and flashes it around, Christina is petulant and bitchy; CeeLo is as calm as Italian marble. The teachings he lays on young singers are honest, he shoots from the hip, and he’s eloquent, every time. An ambassador.
Steve and I have been watching “The Voice” for several seasons, we really like watching vocal talent be discovered and trained, and, despite the show’s host, Carson Daly (who was annoying twenty years ago on MTV; now he’s just a pimple on the ass of entertainment), it’s getting better and better. The singers that come to “The Voice” are mostly young, sometimes older; all are full of ashe (the sum total of life forces), ready to rocketship their lives somewhere far off and unknown. And the production “values” (is that what they’re actually called?) have increased tenfold; there are bands and gospel choirs and grand pianos, I always want to be there.
In the first season of the show, all the coaches except CeeLo were extremely competitive, and rushed to tear the others’ teams apart. [For those unfamiliar with “The Voice:” there’s a blind audition where a dozen or so singers are picked up by each coach; then some nasty elimination rounds; and then, American cell phone users votext (I just made that up, please circulate) for their favorites, more singers are cut each week, the one left standing is “The Voice,” with record deal in hand. It’s a little fixed, you can’t forget that music is a business, some artists are certainly elevated for their marketability, despite the initial blind audition. But there is sweet humanity here, which is why I watch it week after week.]
Earlier seasons featured the three other coaches endlessly nitpicking singers that weren’t on their team, fighting amongst themselves over talent they wanted, and even some apathy. Dear CeeLo Green used his calm, regal presence to change the other coaches; he gets excited over art and hard work, no matter who is creating it. He doesn’t engage in anything petty, or distracting. Eventually, Blake and Adam followed his example, and the three of them are now really raising up the true artists.
Christina Aguilera remains kind of a pill; she makes a lot of faces while people are performing, faces that say “something smells.” To any singer she sees as a threat to her team, she tells them they haven’t connected with the song or something equally noncommittal. The other three coaches are blown away by a spirited, perfect performance, moved to tears even, while she sits there twirling her eight-hundred-dollar dye job and looking bored. And night after night, she partially exposes her breasts, they have become a kind of sweaty wallpaper. But she is not the focus of this piece, it’s CeeLo. I think that given another season or two, he might even turn that steaming pile of crappy energy into something good.
So, CeeLo, I don’t know if you’ll ever read this (perhaps through the mad science of internet juju, you might), but I want to say thank you for your brilliant and shining beauty, the fire and honey of your voice, and most of all, for the clarity of your presence. We’re Buddhists, we deeply appreciate teachers who transform their world through an unwavering righteous example: you are one of these.