On How Life Is (Sony ’99) Rating: A-
With glowing reviews, brisk sales, and a Grammy nomination for best new artist, Macy Gray became this year’s version of Lauryn Hill. And though this fine debut album is a little overrated considering the hype, Gray joins Hill (and a select few others) as a fresh and original new r&b voice, not the least because of her wheezy rasp of a voice (which one writer likened to a cross between Billie Holliday and Donald Duck!). The best songs here generally feature catchy chanted choruses and richly funky but relaxed grooves that have a hip-hop flavor, though several overly repetitive tracks show Gray’s songwriting to still be a work in progress. However, upbeat songs (at least musically) such as “Why Didn’t You Call Me” and “I Can’t Wait To Meetchu” are easy to hum along to, while “I Try” (the album’s hit single) is a soulful song about a lover’s longing, and “Still” sees Gray on the wrong end of an abusive relationship. Elsewhere, “Caligula” and “Sex-O-Matic Venus Freak” are lustful songs with outrageously forward sex crazed lyrics, while “I’ve Committed Murder,” a story song about getting away with murder, and “The Letter,” about a suicide letter, further demonstrate Gray’s provocative and often offbeat subject matter. “Do Something” is another (sample-heavy) highlight, and though it contains a couple of nondescript tracks, On How Life Is is a very infectious, enjoyably mainstream modern day r&b record that bodes well for a bright future.