Macy Gray

Macy Gray would like to try this again.

Not so long ago everyone was embracing the wild-haired neo-soul pixie and her debut, On How Life Is. Her raspy, hellacious voice channeled both Billie Holiday and Rickie Lee Jones, while her retro wardrobe made you think of both Janis Joplin and Phyllis Diller. Even then, Gray was positioned more as a torch singer for the thirtysomething crowd than black music's newest shining star, a member of the same flock as soulbirds Des'ree and Dionne Farris. All of these gals were and are too damn quirky for black radio, but just right for drive-time play on a "lite" FM station. Fittingly, her hit single, "I Try," was an adult-contemporary staple -- it was all over Michael J. Fox's farewell episode of Spin City, for God's sake! Little Christina Aguilera may have beat her out for the 2001 New Artist Grammy, but everyone over 30 was singing the praises of big-boned Macy.

Then came The Id. Determined to avoid the sophomore jinx, Gray wore a gaudy dress to the 2001 Video Music Awards with the declaration "My New Album Drops Sept. 18, 2001" emblazoned on it. Unfortunately, the fashion gambit backfired; audiences perhaps sensed the desperation and the album didn't even crack the top ten. Not to mention the fact that the album dropped seven days after -- well, you know…

What's unfortunate is The Id is actually a great album. Gray exhibits a kind of naked, unadulterated emotion that's both outrageous and saddening. And therein lies the problem. With songs bearing titles like "My Nutmeg Phantasy" and "Gimme All Your Lovin' or I Will Kill You," Gray officially unfurled her freak flag, ran it up a pole and let it fly for all the world to see, possibly scaring off some of the latte-sipping white audience she had and still not intriguing the mass black audience she should have in the process. Ah, the price you pay for being you.

But determined not to be counted out, Gray is back on the road, hoping to entice back her old fans and win a few new ones on the eve of the release of her third album in May.

The new album's title? The Trouble with Being Myself.

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Craig D. Lindsey
Contact: Craig D. Lindsey