On How Life Is Album reviews.
Release Date: 07.27.99
Record label: Sony
Genre(s): Rap, Hip-Hop, R&B, etc.
Try and Ye Shall Succeed
by: bryan ochalla
Now that her first single, "I Try," ( RealAudio Clip ) is climbing 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.
While most 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.
The uniqueness 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.
Other ballads 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.
Gray expresses 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.
Luckily for 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. 03-Aug-1999 11:45 AM