Macy Gray: A Spiritual Comeback With 'The Sellout' On her fifth studio album, the neo-soul diva sings often-ambiguous lyrics that move back and forth from her "honey boo" to her career. It's a concept that critic Robert Christgau says is trickier than it appears. While The Sellout might not be a full-scale commercial comeback, it's a spiritual one -- complete with Gray's unforgettable voice, a bit less kink and a whole lot of cheese.
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Macy Gray: A Spiritual Comeback With 'The Sellout'

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Macy Gray: A Spiritual Comeback With 'The Sellout'

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Music Reviews

Macy Gray: A Spiritual Comeback With 'The Sellout'

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ROBERT SIEGEL, Host:

In 1999, neo-soul diva Macy Gray burst onto the music scene with her hit "I Try."

(SOUNDBITE OF SONG, "I TRY")

M: (Singing) I try to say goodbye and I choke. I try to walk away and I stumble. Though I try to hide it, it's clear. My world crumbles when you are not near.

SIEGEL: Critic Robert Christgau has our review.

ROBERT CHRISTGAU: But that album was launched into an expanding music market where female vocalists and black pop were growth sectors. Instead, the market plummeted and her label bailed.

(SOUNDBITE OF SONG, "THE SELLOUT")

M: (Singing) And I'm out on a limb. I'm giving in. I'm selling out to the pay, to the show. This is my gimmick, and I want to win it. I'm selling out. I won't fight you no more. Honey babe and honey boo, I always pictured you by my side forever. And I can't believe that you're gone now because I got a love to give.

CHRISTGAU: So I figured that like many pop artists before her, she wants to sing about her love life and her musical life at the same time. Track three, "Kissed It," is less ambiguous.

(SOUNDBITE OF SONG, "KISSED IT")

M: (Singing) I was going to leave you, then you dipped it.

CHRISTGAU: (Singing) Dipped it.

M: (Singing) Baby, you fixed it.

CHRISTGAU: (Singing) Fixed it.

M: (Singing) When you kissed it.

CHRISTGAU: (Singing) Kissed it.

M: (Singing) I don't wanna fight, baby. Kiss it.

CHRISTGAU: (Singing) Kiss it.

M: (Singing) Because I miss it.

CHRISTGAU: (Singing) Miss it.

M: (Singing) Make it all right.

CHRISTGAU: (Singing) All right.

M: (Singing) Boy, you light a fire in me.

CHRISTGAU: Or maybe there is an ambiguity here. Maybe what's lighting Gray's fire isn't a sexy guy, but the slam-bang chorus itself, delivered in this case by the post-grunge band Velvet Revolver. Although "The Sellout" avoids the orchestral fromage Geffen poured over "Big," it's got nothing against corn. You can't get much cornier than "Beauty in the World." Listen to how shamelessly the chorus fulfills the sweet promise of the verse.

(SOUNDBITE OF SONG, "BEAUTY IN THE WORLD")

M: (Singing) When I look around, I see blue skies. I see butterflies for us. Listen to the sound and lose it in sweet music, and dance with me. There is beauty in the world. So much beauty in the world. Always beauty in the world. So much beauty in the world.

CHRISTGAU: The album is on Concord, a niche label geared to traditional tastes, so nobody's expecting a full-scale comeback, commercially. But spiritually, it is a comeback, which is why Gray closes with a big ballad called "The Comeback." Once again, she blends the romantic and the professional. She likes the results so much, she even adds a little cheese.

(SOUNDBITE OF SONG, "THE COMEBACK")

M: (Singing) And maybe if I had more money, maybe if I was more pretty, I'm going in circles when it hits me that I don't. I don't know where I'm going. Where I'm going. And all you big rockers, stay hot, hot, hot. Look at how they leave you when you're not, not, not.

SIEGEL: The latest album from Macy Gray is called "The Sellout." Our reviewer is Robert Christgau.

(SOUNDBITE OF SONG, "THE COMEBACK")

M: (Singing) Would you take me back if I told you that I haven't changed a bit? Baby, would you go for it? Would you take me back if I told you that?

MICHELE NORRIS, Host:

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