By Simon Vozick-Levinson
November 18, 2010 at 07:46 PM EST

Image Credit: Frank Micelotta/Getty ImagesThe great Cee Lo Green limped on to the Billboard 200 chart this week with just 41,000 copies sold of his new album The Lady Killer. That got him to No. 9, but it’s hard to see this as anything but a  weak opening number, especially considering how much Cee Lo had going for him in the year of “F— You.” What went wrong?

The simple fact is that all the buzz around “F— You” didn’t translate into album sales. That isn’t entirely surprising. Thanks in part to the profanity in its chorus, it was only a medium-sized chart hit, peaking at No. 17 on Billboard‘s Hot 100, so it never achieved measurable ubiquity. Still, it certainly felt like “F— You” and its inferior sanitized version, “Forget You,” were everywhere this summer and fall. Just in the last few weeks, Cee Lo performed the song on Late Night With David Letterman and The Colbert Report. Unfortunately for him, the episode of Glee where guest star Gwyneth Paltrow sang it didn’t air until this Tuesday, too late to affect his first-week Nielsen SoundScan tally. Still, this was a pretty well-run media campaign. Cee Lo worked hard to keep himself in the public eye as his album release date approached, and none of it seems to have mattered.

Compare the case of Kid Cudi. His single “Erase Me” had an even smaller chart presence than “F— You” (it only reached No. 22), but he ended up selling four times as many albums as Cee Lo last week. Four times as many! What does Cudi have that Cee Lo doesn’t? A vocal co-sign from Kanye West, for one thing, and a single with less prominent curse words. Maybe he also has a more loyal fan base, or at least one that includes way more people who actually pay money for albums. But with all due respect to Kid Cudi, whose Man on the Moon II: The Legend of Mr. Rager is a fantastic record, that doesn’t quite add up. Cee Lo is a veteran artist who’s paid dues for a decade and a half. He has the respect of hip-hop heads from his years in Goodie Mob and pop listeners from his Gnarls Barkley project. Didn’t any of those people care enough to buy his album?

In this day and age, no one can count on huge first-week sales. That’s a given. I wasn’t expecting Cee Lo to put up Taylor Swift numbers. Still, I can’t help being a little disappointed that he didn’t even break the 50,000 mark in week one. How about you? Did any of you buy The Lady Killer? Speak up in the comments.

(Follow the Music Mix on Twitter: @EWMusicMix.)

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