On How Life Is
score : 3.5 out of 5.0
and Ye Shall Succeed
Now that her
first single, "I Try," (
the radio and video charts, Macy Gray will likely become an artist
people either love or hate.
With her aggressive
and assertive personality (she said in a recent interview that
she would like to punch Mariah Carey) and one of the most unique
and unconventional voices around, she is sure to draw both praise
and scorn from the often hot and cold record-buying public.
consumers probably have not experienced Gray's spark plug personality,
they have undoubtedly come to hear her voice and have made an
opinion about it. On the one hand, Gray sounds a bit like the
legendary Billie Holiday, possessing an unpretentious and untrained
voice that warbles with honesty and integrity. On the other hand,
she also sounds a bit like Donald Duck, with a nasal scratchiness
that could grate some listener's nerves to the core. Regardless,
Gray's vocals are unique and intriguing, something that can rarely
be said for the current crop of teeny-bopper wannabees and r&b
sound-alikes crowding the airwaves.
in Gray's voice is carried over into the rest of the songs on
her highly acclaimed debut album, On How Life Is. While
nothing about the album as a whole screams of a new ground-breaking
sound, On How Life Is takes everything from breezy ballads
and butt-shaking hip-hop tunes a little left of center and makes
them sound refreshingly new and different.
Of the breezy
ballads, the break-out hit "I Try" is undoubtedly the standout.
With an introduction of falling strings straight out of an old
Ella Fitzgerald tune, "I Try" eventually settles into a lilting
song about the euphoria of love and the loneliness that replaces
it when the lover is gone. Gray's vocal prowess is shown off here,
especially in the too-catchy-for-words chorus and in her cute
little improvisations near the song's end.
on On How Life Is deal with weighty issues of love as well,
including "Still" which talks of an abusive relationship the singer
is weary of walking away from. "A Moment To Myself", another down-tempo
number, deals with a revelatory day in which narrator discovers
a renewed sense of self-esteem because of her new love.
her self esteem in more aggressive-and entertaining-ways on the
album's uptempo songs. A hilarious, and deadly, altercation between
a man's wife and his extorting female boss is the subject of "I
Committed Murder." Other
danceable tracks, such as "Sex-O-Matic Venus Freak" and "I Can't
Wait To Meetchu," lack the edginess and wit of "Murder," but are
fully enjoyable nonetheless.
As with any
freshman effort, however, On How Life Is is not perfect.
While some songs, such as the heartfelt "I Try" and the comical
"I've Committed Murder" feature lyrics that reveal an intriguing
perspective and great sense of humor, many other tracks feature
lyrics that are overly simple, sappy and repetitive. Likewise,
apart from the stand-out songs mentioned earlier, the rest of
the songs are to listen to but hard to remember.
Gray and her new fans, the lyrical misgivings are generally overshadowed
by unique vocals, interesting and varying production (thanks to
Andrew Slater) and a heap of extremely catchy hooks.
If you have
not already formed an opinion of Gray's unconventional voice,
you could do worse than picking up On How Life Is during
your next run to the record store.
liked On How Life Is...
Why Didn't You Call Me
2. Do Something
4. I Try
5. Sex-O-Matic Venus Feak
6. I Can't Wait To Meetchu
8. I've Committed Murder
9. A Moment To Myself
10. The Letter