It’s Tuesday again y’all, time to indulge in some good ol’ reminiscing about how amazing music back in the day used to be!
For much of the late 90’s, Rhythm and Blues as a genre saw itself taking a new direction creatively. With the advent of Neo-Soul artists like Erykah Badu, Maxwell and D’Angelo, with Mary J Blige bridging the gap between Hip-Hop and Soul, with Lauryn Hill, Missy Elliott and Lil’ Kim fusing Rap with R’n’B, and groups like Destiny’s Child experimenting with Pop/R’n’B/Hip Hop to create Hip-Pop, there was a distinct difference in the sound of R’n’B of the early 90’s and that of the later part of the decade. One such vocalist, a shining talent with a unique distinct and raspy voice, arrived on the scene in 1999 with an album that could well be described as one of those timeless albums that you could never grow tired of listening to.
Macy Gray was an original. From the look to the voice, she was unique. Her voice was a cross between Neo-Soul pioneer Erykah Badu and Rap royalty Lauryn Hill, with distinct influences drawn from Billie Holiday and Nina Simone. Macy released her début album ‘On How Life Is‘ in 1999, along with her first single ‘Do Something‘. The single was largely ignored in America, but it was the British that took notice of her incredible talent, as the following single ‘I Try‘ surged up the charts in the UK, and subsequently in Asia, and finally the US took notice in the year 2000, as Macy became a staple on the Billboard Charts.
Fresh, vibrant, adventurous, unconventional and unpredictable, Macy’s sound was a heady mix of vintage R’n’B and old school Funk and Soul. Contemporary R’n’B never sounded so lush! Macy’s songwriting was assertive, vulnerable and breezy. The entire album comprising of 10 songs was lyrically and musically cohesive and engaging, and even when there were occasional stumbles, her vocal prowess and intriguing sound more than made up for them.
‘I Try‘ was the second single from ‘On How Life Is‘, and it was with this song that Macy became a worldwide phenomenon. Released in 2000, the song slowly but steadily made its way up the charts, eventually peaking at # 5 on the Billboard Hot 100 Singles Chart, # 6 on the UK Top 40 Singles Chart, and at # 1 in Australia, Ireland and New Zealand. By the end of the year, Macy became a force to be reckoned with, as she won every major award on the planet for her début smash. ‘I Try‘ won the 2001 Grammy for the Best Pop Vocal Performance Female, along with being nominated for both Record and Song Of The Year. The video also won the MTV VMA for Best New Video at the 2000 MTV Video Music Awards. ‘On How Life Is‘ went on to sell 7 million copies worldwide, and still remains her highest selling album till date.
Macy went on to release 4 more studio albums after ‘On How Life Is‘, but none to match the stellar success of her début album. Thankfully that hasn’t stopped her from creating music. Macy’s latest album ‘Covered‘ just released yesterday, and it’s a great collection of remakes that have been re-created by Macy by giving them her signature touch. In case you enjoyed Macy’s sound, give her albums ‘On How Life Is‘, ‘The Id‘ and ‘Big‘ a listen. They’re superbly crafted and lyrically engaging, and are her best albums till date. Innovative R’n’B at its best!