It's hard to remember Macy Gray as she was in 1999. But when the cigarettes 'n 'kerosene-voiced singer landed smack-dab at the top of the pop charts with the irresistible "I Try," she was considered retiring and charming. Oh, how the shock of fame can turn the quiet into the calculating. Gray's breakout moment wasn't just her most innocent, it was also her best. Most of On How Life Is sounds nothing like "I Try," a surgically-engineered chart demon. "Sex-O-Matic Venus Freak" and "I Can't Wait to Meetchu" are all about swing, sproinging around like nu-Stax anthems (composer extraordinaire Jon Brion plays guitar on both tracks) and "I've Committed Murder" is a reggae jaunt mixed with a dark funk groove that samples Eddie Harris 'pristine "Live Right Now." Gray is most comfortable detailing the seedy and debauched — "Caligula" peaks with the immortal "Never lovin 'but we're always f**kin'" — but it's the vulnerable "Why Didn't You Call Me" that reconciles the stumbling pop star of "I Try" with the freakish antics elsewhere. Over a full-bodied slab of wah-wah soul, she stands tall, reprimanding a lover while splaying her guts on the table. Gray splayed more with less taste in the ensuing years, but her debut remains an unimpeachable slice of nu-soul.
By Jon Wiederhorn on 09.09.14 in Reviews
With every In Flames album, a certain percentage of fans hope the Gothenburg quintet will pull a Metallica and return full-circle to their classic sound. In their case it was Swedish melodic death metal, a style that com...
By Winston Cook-Wilson on 04.22.14 in Features
Winston Cook-Wilson on Atlanta hip-hop's current biggest hitmaker
By Stephen M. Deusner on 12.04.12 in Reviews
Across the Atlantic, Paloma Faith is huge. Her debut, Do You Want the Truth or Something Beautiful?, established her as a formidable neo-soul singer, and she countered the inevitable comparisons to Adele and Amy Winehous...
By Hua Hsu on 08.26.12 in Reviews
The family business is in good hands: Janelle Monae's freak flag flies on behalf of the Dungeon, while Killer Mike continues to put out fantastic, bracing records. And then there's Future, whose 2012 debut Pluto was one...