In 1999 Macy Gray burst onto the music scene like Athena bursting forth from the brow of Zeus: fully-realized and ready to conquer any hearts and minds savvy enough to recognize and embrace her soul-deep funk, gloriously unique voice , and decidedly offbeat wisdom. On How Life Is, her first CD, was a dazzling, funny, funky, soulful tour de force that took the pop world by storm.
Since then, Gray has shined as both an accomplished actress and a quirky personality but her records have not reached the same heights as her first. Big, her first effort on will.i.am’s Geffen-distributed label, reclaims much of the glory of her debut.
will.i.am (man, that’s WAY too precious a moniker), the leader of the Black Eyed Peas, co-produced most of the CD and he did a fine job while managing to stay out of the way of the star of the show (he delivers one, mostly tolerable, rap on the propulsive “Treat Me Like Your Money”.) He brought along a couple of friends to good effect: Justin Timberlake, who co-wrote, co-produced, and played (drums, keys, and guitar) on the funky romps “Get Out” and “Okay”, and Fergie, who provided strong backing vocals for the infectious smooth R&B jam “Glad You’re Here”.
Natalie Cole adds her distinctive voice to the acerbic, celebratory kiss off “Finally Made Me Happy”.
Macy is in fine voice…well, you know what I mean…throughout. From the engaging hooks of “Shoo Be Doo” and “What I Gotta Do” (an affirming paean to what a mother has to do provide for her children) to lilting semi-tropical grooves of “One for Me” and “Slowly” to the oddly-charming murder ballad “Strange Behavior” to the rockin’ dance floor stomper “Everybody”, Gray reminds us that she is…with her beguiling voice…is still a force to be reckoned with in the music world.