Macy Gray - The Sellout (2010)

Macy Gray
Macy_Gray_The_Sellout.jpg
Click on CD cover
to listen or purchase

Macy Gray has this rare ability to create music that puts a jaunty and carefree slant on songs that have very disturbing subject matter. On Big, Gray's critically acclaimed but tragically underappreciated 2007 album, she sampled Gilbert O'Sullivan's maudlin classic "Alone Again, Naturally" to tell a the story of murder for life insurance. "My Fondest Childhood Memories," told from the standpoint of a person who kills the lovers of her philandering parents, was on 2003s The Trouble With Being Myself. The topic is self-explanatory on "Stalker," a track on Gray's new album, The Sellout.

Macy Gray has this rare ability to create music that puts a jaunty and carefree slant on songs that have very disturbing subject matter. On Big, Gray's critically acclaimed but tragically underappreciated 2007 album, she sampled Gilbert O'Sullivan's maudlin classic "Alone Again, Naturally" to tell a the story of murder for life insurance. "My Fondest Childhood Memories," told from the standpoint of a person who kills the lovers of her philandering parents, was on 2003s The Trouble With Being Myself. The topic is self-explanatory on "Stalker," a track on Gray's new album, The Sellout.

The funny thing about all of these songs is that the melodies are so energetic that they are sure to have listeners nodding their collective heads. Then, there will come that moment of clarity when folks juxtapose that bubbly beat with the lyrics, and you won't know whether to laugh out loud or exclaim "she said what!" The fact of the matter is that Gray is a master wordsmith and intelligent lyricist who knows how to use multiple meaning, irony and humor to get her thoughts across. This might explain why a lot of music fans don't get Gray.

Gray is perfectly willing to make her listeners work, and a lot of folks feel like that's doing too much. If being a passive listener scares them away from The Sellout, that's their loss. Look, anyone who can expand off of a musical allusion to the theme song from the 1960s TV show "Batman" to make a song about the search for the perfect man bears a much closer listen. That song, "That Man" is one of the high points on The Sellout. Another is Gray's duet with Bobby Brown (yes, THAT Bobby Brown) on the sweet ballad "Real Love."

Gray was reluctant to become a singer because she wasn't fond of her raspy voice. She doesn't sound like the female vocalists played on the radio these days. However, that voice opens a musical world to Gray that might be closed to other singers. And Gray showcases her ability to take on many genres on The Sellout. She can rock out on "Kissed It," she can show her emotions on the hip-hop influenced torch song "Still Hurts," and she can display an idealistic side on the anthem "Beauty In the World."

I felt that Big was one of the best records I'd heard. It makes my list of the best 10 or 20 CDs of the first decade of the 21st Century. Unfortunately, a lot of music fans didn't agree with me. By naming this record The Sellout, some people might conclude that Gray might be about to subordinate her quirky independent streak in the quest for more sales. I don't think so. The Sellout doesn't have any of the collaborations that are a constant on Big. Gray is the master of the double meaning, and I have the feeling that the title is a declaration that Gray plans on doubling down on doing things her way. Good for her. Good for us. Recommended.

By Howard Dukes

 
Song of the Month - Teri Tobin - "You Are"
Album of the Month - Krishawna - "Full Disclosure"
Choice Cut - Brother Reggie - "Send for Me"

Leave a comment!