Big Label: Geffen
She’s got one of the most recognizable voices in popular music — a raspy, soul-infused, larger-than-life instrument that is generally used to its fullest. Big is Macy Gray’s latest, and producer will.i.am really brings out that vocal ability and then some. The songs may have been written by a team of pop writers, leaving the possibility that they could sound like a lot of other songs (read: crap) out there. But Gray and will.i.am know better than that, and they know that Gray can make a dull song interesting and a good song great. That’s not to say this fourth studio effort of Gray’s is all stellar, because the ugly head of formulaic songwriting can’t keep itself at bay all the time. But it’s still pretty damn good.
The opener, “Finally Make Me Happy,” has elements of what makes Macy Gray so compelling, meaning her signature vocal and some musical arrangements that sound familiar. But then it lifts itself to another level when the chorus kicks in, in part because Natalie Cole adds background vocals. “Shoo Be Doo (No Words)” is an R&B song with a slow, steady groove and some slick production that includes strings. “One for Me” and “I’m So Glad You’re Here” have an old school Motown feel, but even though will.i.am does a good job of distinguishing the album’s tracks, it’s after this that the songs run into each other a bit. “Slowly,” “Ghetto Love,” and “OK” are, in the words of Randy Jackson, “just A-ight.” The exception is the very catchy closer, “Strange Behavior,” which could be potentially annoying but instead lures you in like the smell of Krispy Kremes.
Macy Gray has always had that old soul thing going on. Yes, she does turn 40 this year but with a lot of success in a short time, she’s still considered a youngster in industry terms. And no offense to will.i.am, but you can’t help but wonder if Gray would have been a bigger star back in the '60s or '70s with the likes of Berry Gordy guiding her career. Regardless, if you’ve been a fan of Macy Gray’s for the duration, it’s likely that Big won’t disappoint you at all.