Macy Gray

The Id

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Macy Gray's throaty, somewhat strangled growl was a large reason why listeners were captivated by her debut album. They also loved the way the classicist songwriting was wrapped in fresh, colorful grooves and an idiosyncratic personality, sexy in its bohemian funkiness. On How Life Is became a word-of-mouth smash as much with the traditional urban R&B audience as it was with suburban college kids and NPR listeners, which left her with the freedom to do what she wanted on her second record, The Id. Here, Macy Gray lets her freak flag fly, almost to the detriment of everything else. Layers of overdubs are piled onto the record -- endless backing vocals, bubbling drum machines, loops, glistening synths, and gurgling guitars -- giving the record the appearance of a widescreen '70s soul fantasia filtered through postmodern hip-hop. Unfortunately, it's more appearance than reality, since there's not enough structure to support what the record wants to be. It often sounds good, often like a bright, contemporary take on Riot- and Fresh-era Sly Stone, but plays better in small doses. Over the course of the album, there's just too much effort in demonstrating Gray's "freakishness," culminating in the Germanic stomp of "Oblivion," and she just doesn't seem to have that much to say outside of cheerleading for "freaks" like her. So, it's an uneven second album, but there are moments that live up to the debut, such as "Sexual Revolution," "Boo" and, best of all, the Erykah Badu duet "Sweet Baby," easily the highlight of the album. There are just not enough of them to make this an entirely successful sophomore effort.

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