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Macy Gray 

The Trouble With Being Myself (Epic)

Someone recently wrote that Macy Gray's Id -- the album, though what she sells is what she thinks -- didn't move because of its being released before the smoke cleared post-September 11; sorry, that excuse doesn't hold water. The product didn't move because it was nuttier than squirrel shit -- Funkadelic by way of Weimar Republic with some deep blues sung through the rusted pipes of someone more freaky than funky. People didn't buy the disc because they didn't buy her act, that of the Eccentric Diva with a death fixation and a rasp Tricky finds annoying. So it was on to the next thang, or whatever it is Erykah Badu keeps in that atomic wig.

It would seem Epic's lost faith in its soul savior: The Trouble With Being Myself (album title as cry for help, anyone?) was released in the U.K. in April, then shuffled on and off the U.S. schedule until it all but disappeared; it may never come out, it may already be out, who knows. So, before it slips between the cracks and takes Gray with it, consider it proof that an artist can sell out without giving in. Dallas Austin (giving it all his TLC) produces, but without smoothing down the razor's edge; you can move the bad girl into a good neighborhood, but she's still capable of corrupting the neighbors.

Gray's first-person fantasies still convince like holy-crap autobiography (her "Fondest Childhood Memories" include offing the babysitter caught "sexing" her dad and the plumber she found "plunging" her mom), her love letters still sound like restraining orders ("She Ain't Right for You" says one; "She Don't Write Songs About You" goes another), her ambitions still border on the insane ("If I could be Jesus for just one day"). But, goddamn, the music kills: No record released in 2003 will put a bigger grin on your face, a bigger beat in your heart or a bigger bounce in your quarter-ounce.

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