“Fuck You” (or, in its radio version, “Forget You”) could have been played for laughs. I’m sure there are some who consider it a “Weird Al”-style yuk fest as opposed to an anguished (with a wink and a nudge) classic soul song. You don’t think someone like Wilson Pickett would’ve written and recorded “Fuck You” if they thought they could get away with it in the Sixties? Beneath the comedy of hearing someone sing “Fuck You” in the chorus of a non-rap record is a passionately sung and intelligently written piece of music¹. There’s a Cee Lo Green-sized chasm between “Fuck You” and a song that’s vulgar for simple shock value. Of course, there’s also the fact that Mr. Green can sing and rap his ass off. Long before it became almost the norm for musicians to have equal facility singing and rapping, Cee Lo was doing it. And doing it well².
Plus, in the immediate aftermath of a breakup, who doesn’t understand the feelings expressed in “Fuck You”? Especially if your ex seems to have gotten over the relationship’s ending significantly faster than you have. The mix of self-pity and anger is fairly common, I think. Cee Lo just expressed it musically better than anyone else has.
¹-Shouts out to Bruno Mars, who co-wrote “Fuck You” before he blew up as a performer.
²All time best rapper-singers: Lauryn Hill, Cee Lo Green, Phonte Coleman, Queen Latifah, Q-Tip, Andre 3000.