Macy Gray

The Trouble with Being Myself

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From her debut, Macy Gray has been too eccentric to qualify as a straight pop singer, but far too inconsistent to be truly called a great artist -- except, of course, when considering her glorious whiskey-soaked voice. Her third album, The Trouble With Being Myself, is more of the same, a set of sub-standard songs with drowsy chord progressions, humdrum lyrics, and loose-limbed but musically comatose backing from her studio group (heavy on the Hammond organ). Gray still wields her hoarse yet tuneful voice like a genius, hitting every note she wants despite the cracks and never letting it sound overly contrived. Unfortunately, she also continues to be the victim of chart-focused, overly market-tested arrangements that never break out of the mold of soulful, organic R&B and pop. The single "When I See You" is pleasant but clearly a song that required no heavy lifting, and the most intriguing setup on the record -- "It Ain't the Money" featuring Pharoahe Monch and Beck -- is surprisingly desultory as well. (Monch's raps are uncharacteristically awkward, and Beck clumsily plays a stoner Timbaland with his background vocals.) After the unrepentant ego on display with her second album, The Id, the title here (as well as the cover shot, of Gray crouching in the corner of an abandoned house with a mistrustful look on her face) apparently speaks to the fact that Gray's been persecuted for being "different." But the commercial and critical indifference that greeted The Id wasn't due to a lack of acceptance, but to a set of songs that was utterly average. That same lack of distinction plagues The Trouble With Being Myself. Blessed with a voice that immediately announces itself, Gray still hasn't found a musical personality to complement it.

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