"The Sellout" by Macy Gray

Macy Gray
The Sellout

Concord Records
2010

Review

Everyone loves Macy Gray's voice - except for those who don't, I would argue that it isn't so much her voice that bothers the naysayers as much as it is her off-kilter exploits. On her latest album, "The Sellout", Macy Gray sounds hungry, which I suppose is to be expected after folks not really paying much attention to her since her weeded-out, less than classy antics. However, I'm not sure this album represents maturity so much as it does capitulation.

I'm out on a limb
I'm giving in
I'm selling out to the pay, to the show
This is my gimmick and I want to win it
I'm selling out, I won't fight you no more
- Macy Gray on "The Sellout"

The opener/titular song pretty much explains her situation fairly well. I don't think that this album represents Macy selling out to what is going to go gangbusters on the radio (she'd have to invent a dance or something for that...) as much as it does just her taking a serious approach to the music; gimmick-free R&B/Soul. It's on the more traditional R&B focused songs that she shines. Less so on the ones that either try to do something different or that are all about apologizing for her past behavior.

On to the goodness. "Lately" is a nice almost UK-Garage-style of track here (c'mon - almost, listen close) that Macy accentuates nicely - but it's still good old-R&B. She's still got that distinct voice that is as surprising as it was the first time you heard "I Try". "Lately" is like Macy's version of Janet Jackson's Velvet Rope. The other standout is "Let You Win". This song has the sound that I fans of Macy Gray are probably most familar with. It's notable that this is one of the standouts on the album and it's really just an all-around solid R&B/Soul music song about a love mulligan. There's a seeming lack of effort to the performance - perhaps because the subject matter isn't so personal and the music itself isn't really trying to be all that contemporary (it does remind me of a Flight of the Conchords Song - which is a good indication that it falls into a well-established category of music: see For All The Ladies In the World).

As songs that accentuate the theme of selling out, look no further than "So Much Beauty In The World". That song is so sweet and sugary you'll want to brush your teeth after listening to it (There's so much beauty in the world/so shake your booty boys and girls). This song is practically begging to be in a commercial if it isn't already (oh wait, it was featured on Grey's Anatomy, so there you go) but not in that - "OMG is that such and such song by so and so in a COMMERICAL???" sort of way. In this case it's more in that, "Wow, that sounds great. I'm going to wait to get another beer until this commercial ends") sort of way.

I should probably also mention that Bobby Brown is on this album... OK, moving on.

So on the downside, there are too many lethargic tracks that where she's just apologizing. Tracks like the previously mentioned "The Sellout" but also "The Comeback" and "Help Me". "Help Me' is a good example of what I mean where it's just explanation of where she's at:

They say I'm too far gone
I say let them run
Because who are they to say who I should be when I'm gone

...that one could have benefited from a Cee-Lo appearance. In fact, I think Macy Gray is one collaboration with a super-producer away from becoming super relevant again. However, this album is not the one to bring her back to the collective consciousness. In the end, you have a couple of really great tracks that just stick to the basics along with a few good ones and a bunch of mediocre ones that spend too much time apologizing for a singer with an amazing voice who shouldn't be apologizing at all...just get on with the singing and stick to the basics. Get you 9th Wonder on production or something...

3.583 out of 5

Track Ratings

1. The Sellout (03:58) 3
2. Lately (02:57) 5
3. Kissed It (feat. Velvet Revolver) (04:36) 4
4. Still Hurts (feat. Romika) (03:50) 3
5. Beauty in the World (03:50) 4
6. Help Me (04:37) 3
7. Let You Win (03:57) 5
8. That Man (03:33) 3
9. Stalker (02:27) 2
10. Real Love (feat. Bobby Brown) (04:03) 4
11. On & On (03:19) 4
12. The Comeback (04:04) 3
13. Lost (03:21)