[artist id="1163841"]Cee Lo Green[/artist] has definitely mined a very specific retro 1950s vibe in the videos he’s released so far from his Lady Killer album. But when it came time to work up a clip for “Cry Baby,” he picked a guest star who is best known for his work in the 1990s as the ultimate über-nerd.
Yes, Jaleel “Urkel” White is all grown up now and looks nothing like his four-eyed goofball character from “Family Matters.” He’s also a much better dancer then you might have remembered. Like the other Killer videos , this one opens with the title in squiggly “Fame” script and zeroes in on an idyllic, color-splashed urban scene, in which White is sitting on a stoop breaking up with his girl.
White said he flexed his improv muscles during the emotional scene, coming up with all kinds of funny takes in addition to the “two trains passing” one eventually chosen by the director. “You’re breaking up with a girl … and my best line didn’t even make it,” recalled White, who said his manager insisted he take the gig when the call came in to cast him as Cee Lo’s doppelgänger in the clip. “I was like, ‘Baby, we squirrels in opposite trees. You gotta find another nut!’ ”
The sad split soon turns more joyful, as White spins to the camera and stars lip-synching the bouncy tune’s lyrics with a big smile on his face as his girlfriend (“Big Time Rush” star Tanya Chisholm) looks on dumbfounded. The entire video was shot over one very long day, and White said he did a lot of improvising over the course of the 13-hour grind.
“I learned the entire choreography in about four hours Sunday night, the night before we shot,” he said of the intricate bobby-sox dancing he does in the second section while backed by a group of four male dancers. And yes, he noticed that one of the dancers, Joe, looked a lot like rapper Drake. “We kind of said it on the set a little bit too,” he said of the resemblance, which turned into an Internet meme when fans began speculating about whether Drizzy had made a surprise cameo.
By the third section of the video, White — dressed in plaid pants, a cardigan, black tie and white shirt — is shimmying alongside four female dancers. He admits he probably messed up the choreography in this section “a million times,” but he’s confident director Mickey Finnegan bailed him out and chose the best take. “That’s where editing helps you … I mean, these are all professional dancers. They just pick up steps really quickly. They kept telling me I did a great job. That just fueled my fire and made me want to keep up with them.”
And, professional that he is, White used an old musical-theater trick and snuck some glances at his fellow dancers in the big street-hoofing number near the video’s end to make sure he was getting his steps right. “I’m watching them too, just to make sure my steps are on,” he said.
As the song builds to a dramatic climax, White falls in and out of step with his crew as they spin, jump and boogaloo all around him. “The whole thing was just an ode to the ’50s,” he said of the sock hop, “Grease” street-dancing vibe.
“I guess it’s my take on Cee Lo,” said White, who, coincidentally, has a gravelly talking voice that is eerily similar to the Gnarls Barkley and solo star. “You’ll have to ask Cee Lo what it’s like seeing me be him.”
The whole thing comes home with some freestyle dancing, which White said he was fully prepared for given his experience as a ” ’90s kid” dancing in his church basement. “I just kind of went full Bobby Brown on them right there,” he said of his smooth, shoulder-rocking New Jack moves.
“We shot it all in one day and it was just … magic,” he said.
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