Gnarls Barkley have had a tough week.
On Monday, there was the news that the video for “Run,” the first single from their upcoming album, The Odd Couple, (which premieres on “TRL” Thursday), contained strobe effects that could trigger epileptic seizures, forcing them to re-edit the clip at the last minute. And then, late Tuesday night — presumably while cuts were being made to the “Run” video — Couple went ahead and leaked to the Net more than a month before it was due in stores.
On Wednesday (March 5), many media outlets erroneously reported that MTV had banned the video. According to an MTV spokesperson, MTV’s international channel, MTV U.K., initially rejected the video but has accepted a revised version. Additionally, the clip was already scheduled to premiere on MTV’s “TRL” on Thursday and is set to go into rotation on Monday.
Clearly, the recent developments and misrepresented reports have taken the Barkley camp by surprise, but they’re also taking them in stride. After all, this is the sort of drama that comes with releasing a hotly anticipated album, which Couple most certainly is. And, to be honest, they’re just flattered people are paying attention. After all, they never really intended to get to this point in the first place.
“I don’t think we ever said [Gnarls] was going to be a one-off thing, but we also didn’t think about what would happen next,” producer/mastermind Brian “Danger Mouse” Burton told MTV News. “We got back together to make this album, but also because we were really excited to see what the other person was going to do this time. We kind of always go back and forth, trying to challenge each other with music and lyrics … and we were just excited to see what would happen again.”
And what happened was Couple, an album that — as you probably know by now — ditches a majority of the hip-hop/R&B influences that made their debut, St. Elsewhere, a bona fide smash. Instead, it explores moodier, more crackling ’60s pop and soul and skittering, shifty electronica. In short, it’s an album that showcases both the old and new. Case in point, “Run.”
“The music for ’Run’ I did years ago. It was one of the first group of songs I put together to try to convince Cee-Lo to work with me, so … it was the sound of what would be Gnarls Barkley,” Danger Mouse said. “And [he] had it for years, and then revisited it, I guess, more recently. It was always something I hoped would get used in some kind of way. But I don’t think that if we would’ve done it years ago, it would’ve sounded like this. It probably would’ve been something completely different.”
“At the same time, the track kind of resembles emotion. It sounds like a bullet out of a barrel,” Cee-Lo added. “And that’s why it was the proper way to reintroduce ourselves. Like, ’We are Gnarls Barkley — better run for your life.’ ”
The duo also singled out a pair of tracks — “Open Book” and “Neighbors” — as favorites and prime examples of Gnarls’ mixture of complex emotions and pop music.
“I love ’Open Book.’ It’s just jumping in with both feet, exposing your virtues and your vices, your vulnerabilities and strengths,” Cee-Lo said. “And it’s done in a very eloquent-yet-aggressive way. It’s about being willing to bear the cross and take the sacrifice.”
“I’m a big fan of ’Neighbors,’ ” Danger added. “It’s really relatable, about how people think they see something, but you don’t know what you have gone through to get it or lose it. And that doesn’t necessarily mean material things, it’s much more about people’s outer appearance, and wanting to trade places with people, and the grass is always greener.”
Totally (or something).
Before the whole seizure controversy started (a controversy that, incidentally, the duo claimed to have no knowledge about) the clip for “Run” was better known for the cameo made by Justin Timberlake, who plays the Jheri-curl-sporting host of “City Vibin’,” a dance show Gnarls are performing on. The whole thing seems to have happened on a whim, but in a funny way, it all sort of fits with the duo’s “old and new” ethos.
“Justin volunteered to be in the video. I think he had a relationship with the directors, and his name might have casually come up in conversation, and we’ve met on numerous occasions, and Justin’s a real cool dude, and he did his thing,” Cee-Lo laughed. “It’s a [take-off on] those old retro dance shows, stuff like ’American Bandstand’ and, us being from Atlanta, [a show like] ’Atlanta Jams.’ And then there’s the ’80s garb and attitude and choreography. And when you contrast that up against the brand-new thing we’re doing sonically, it all sort of works.”
[This story was originally published at 3:29 p.m. ET on 03.05.08]