The Trouble With Being Myself
our score: 4.5 out of 5.0
About Some "Fine Chocolate Ass"
Okay, okay, Macy Gray, you love her or
you hate her, you think she's a misunderstood genius or you think
she's a helium-voiced clown. Well, to be honest, I have always
kind of liked her whole R&B-stoner vibe, and I've liked her
songs on the radio, but I haven't really spent any real time digging
her albums or thinking much about her.
Until now. Because this is a big-hearted
work of funk genius for real, and I don't think any of us saw
it coming. The songs come straight from Macy's strange little
brain to us, and her singing is more immediate than it's ever
seemed before. She's laying her life on the line here, and she
makes confession and introspection sexy like Erykah Badu used
to. In "Every Now and Then" she turns her own suicidal
ideations into the best anarchic Latin-flavored funk jam of the
year: "It's the mood I'm in / It's how hard it's been / The
ultimate sin / Don't wanna commit" is pretty bleak without
the bubbling percussion and the sly horns, but when they all start
rocking together it sounds like the most uplifting thing ever,
especially when the payoff comes: "When you're getting down
/ You got to get UP!"
But this isn't some floaty "I Love
Myself" album; it's full of different moods and different
intentions. For every "Things That Made Me Change,"
where she examines loneliness and depression to a snaky Rufus
groove, there's a "Happiness," where she's all amped
up on God and/or drugs to a dubby spooky beat full of cellos and
children's voices. She includes two different songs to an unnamed
guy who's with the wrong woman, but they're very different; "She
Ain't Right For You" is a full-on glam-rock Tina Turner torch
ballad, but "She Don't Write Songs For You" flips things
by being a lot funnier and self-deprecating and self-aggrandizing
at once, saying that the angels are her friends and rhyming "Macy
Gray" with "crazy crazy" and slipping in quotes
from six different songs in the bridge and speculating about her
rival's cooking and fellatio skills…damn, this is a fun
And let's just talk a little about the
really freaky stuff. "Come Together" has the line of
the year: "Do-me-wrong songs make money all the time / But
your fine chocolate ass brings nothing negative to mind."
Genius. This song is topped in horniness by "Screamin',"
which speculates that loud sex is the only key to making the world's
troubles manageable. She wants to be "Jesus For a Day,"
but she also admits that "My Favorite Childhood Memories"
are when she murdered her parents' lovers so they would remain
a happily married couple. That's just sick and wrong, and I love
are key here, but not the ones you'd think. The biggest "names"
here are Beck and Pharoahe Monch, who are lumped together on the
least interesting track, "It Ain't the Money." This
song sounds like a Beck song with Monch on it, a hipster-hop hootenanny
that is just as tiresome as you might think it is: "Betcha
giving head to a movie star / Betcha gotta llama living in your
car"—it's just Midnite Vultures all over again,
innit? Sure, it's fun and all, but it has nothing to do with the
rest of the record, which is all Macy, all the time.
No, the best parts of this record are helmed
by a great band featuring Beck's bass player Justin Meldal-Johnsen,
drummer Victor Indrizzo, and keyboardist Jeremy Ruzumna. The way
this group builds up the psychedelic craziness at the end of "Come
Together" is so intense that Gray herself can't believe it,
and yells out "Awwwwwwww shit!" Dallas Austin produces
a little, actor Lukas Haas plays guitar and sings backup on "Speechless"…but
there's no question who's in charge here. It's Macy Gray, and
she's crazy and weird and all, but she's also incredibly normal,
and very amazingly talented, and she's got more soul than anybody
on earth right now. And she's going to be with us for a long time,
children. And this is the best news we've had in a long time.
liked The Trouble With Being Myself...
When I See You
2. It Ain't The Money
3. She Ain't Right For You
4. Things That Made Me Change
5. Come Together
6. She Don't Write Songs About You
7. Jesus For A Day
8. My Fondest Childhood Memories
12. Every Now And Then