Sunday, April 19, 2009

Macy Gray - Big

Overview: With another studio album slated for later this year, I thought I would look back at the last release by Macy Gray. I got into this album somewhat recently, so some songs are still in the initial phase where I over-praise or over-criticize. Although I make distinctions between faster and slower songs, the majority of these songs would seem very subdued compared to many other artists. These description only apply when compared to the other tracks on the album.

If you don't feel like reading the track by track breakdown below, let me summarize:
put this album on shuffle/random whatever mixing option you have. The order of the songs makes no sense. The second half of the CD is much better overall than the first, with the top tracks being Strange Behavior (track 8) and Treat Me Like Your Money (track 11).

1. Finally Made Me Happy (feat. Natalie Cole)
This song takes a while to get going, and I wonder at first why it's the first song on the album, but by the time Cole scats all over the track for the first time I'm pulled in. Neither Cole nor Gray have the types of voices usually found in mainstream music, but their respective grit compliment each other greatly.

2. Shoo Be Doo
The flow from the first track kind of slides right into this song. We're still in a comfortable zone away from the sounds that would have made this single more popular, but the result is a pleasing and authentic loungy/soul experience. Everything Gray does, I believe comes from her, not someone saying 'add some sort of run here.'

3. What I Gotta Do
My first instinct on this song would be that an introspective slower track like this usually isn't so close to the beginning of the disc. Enter the Shrek 3 soundtrack, where this song takes on a new connotation. I'm not really sure about the nature of the song, and whether it is meant to apply to Macy, Shrek or some strange combination of both.

4. Okay
The opening snare announces a return to form. JTimberake and provide some backing vocals in this song announcing a jilted lover's independence and survival. The fake-child singing would usually get on my nerves, but it works here.

5. Glad You're Here (feat. Fergie)
Changing pace again, Gray presents a ballad that pretty much sounds like the title suggests. Woman is glad her is there. Fergie is sufficient at singing the chorus and limiting herself from going to outside that box.

6. Ghetto Love
A more up-tempo track gathers more swagger and utilizes the country's fascination with spelling in their music. Whether learning how to spell bananas, glamorous, or ghetto, we're suckers for educational music.

7. One For Me
The slower groove found here is a nice relaxing song about falling in love. I find myself starting to not care for the songs as I listen to the album in order. I'm not sure who was in charge of the album's order, but alternating between up-tempo and slower songs makes it very difficult to establish a rhythm while listening.

8. Strange Behavior
I love this song. It's a quirky tale of love, murder and insurance fraud. It's not overdone in instrumentation which grants a more innocent feel as Gray sings about shooting a fictional husband. It's also not her first song about committing murder.

9. Slowly
Picking up slightly is a song about taking it easy in a relationship.

10. Get Out
Another pairing of Macy and JT provides another up-tempo success. It's as if for the final few tracks, someone decided to change the feel of the album, but it's working.

11. Treat Me Like Your Money (feat.
Featuring a sample of "You Spin Me Round (like a Record)" [take that, Flo Rida] and a verse by, this is another song that deserves better placement on this album. It's kind of danceable, in a weird way that wouldn't really suit a club without a big remix, but it's definitely music you can shake to listening to it alone.

12. Everybody
This is the kind of announcement, 'here I am' song that usually comes first on albums. When the first line is "get on the dance floor, and shake it with me," that would have been a welcome change to Finally Made Me Happy.

When I usually listen to this CD, I put it on shuffle and I love it. Listening to the songs in order makes me angry at whoever designed this order. Everybody should be track 1, with Get Out and Treat Me Like Your Money moving up before What I Got To Do. Moving these to the front will give Big a much stronger initial impression that I think would add to its presentation as an album, rather than a disjointed collection of songs. Even though I'm coming across as a lot more critical than I actually feel about the album, I really do enjoy a lot of what it offers. I think Macy Gray is very underrated and that Big is a great addition to a soul/r&b collection.

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