Unbeknownst to much of the world and with little fanfare, awkward soultress Macy Gray released her sixth studio album, Covered, this week via 429 Records. Over the span of her 13-year career, Gray has managed to impact pop culture with her unique voice, quirky style, and unashamed personality. Most known for her GRAMMY award-winning hit "I Try," she offers listeners an album full of cover songs this time around, as the title alludes.
Although her voice is definitely an acquired taste, over time Macy has released quite a few soulful gems -- see "Finally Made Me Happy" with Natalie Cole and "Real Love" with Bobby Brown for proof. Initially, the thought of Macy Gray and a cover album took me right back to 2001's MTV Icon tribute to Janet Jackson. I am still, to this day, a fan of the way that Macy rocked "Love Will Never Do (Without You)" in a kilt, as only she could, with Jimmy Jam, Terry Lewis, and Janet all jamming along. If Covered was anywhere near as fun and upbeat as that performance, I would be pleased.
Covered begins and quickly adopts a very eerie and haunting tone with Gray's take on Eurythmics' "Here Comes the Rain Again" and Radiohead's "Creep." Before comedian J.B. Smoove's "You Want Them Nervous" skit comes in, I'm already nervous. No sword needed here. Although I anticipated something a bit upbeat next, remakes of "Some 2 Joints" (The Toyes) and "Teanagers" (My Chemical Romance) were not at all what I was looking for. Yes, the music picks up but the lyrical content seems to maintain that dark, dreary vibe. "Joints" plays as an ode to marijuana smokers, similar to Afroman's "But I Got High" while "Teenagers" speaks of youngsters who have gotten their hands on drugs, guns, and sex.
The ultimate highlight of Covered comes in with Hugh Salk's incredible spoken word piece, "The Power Of Love." But from there on out, each track has me waiting for a glimpse of sunshine and/or a snippet of joy. I eventually find those moments in the sped up then slowed down again "Maps" (Yeah Yeah Yeahs) and "Wake Up" (Arcadia Fire). Another stand out moment would be Macy's slurred karaoke singing of Kanye West's "Love Lockdown" over Nina Simone's "Buck."
The only thing that baffled me more than the song choices and Idris Elba's feature on the dreaded remake of Colbie Caillat's "Bubbly," would have to be the skit featuring Nicole Scherzinger mocking the likes of Alanis Morrisette, Shakira, and Britney Spears while requesting that Macy Gray find a new sound. While after only selling 37,000 copies (according to Nielson Soundscan) of her last album, The Sellout, I agree that Macy does need a new sound and this depressing one is not it. But I would like to know who deemed Scherzinger, whose debut album has yet to see the light of day, judge and jury?
Covered ends with a hilarious bit that finds MC Lyte introducing Macy Gray. While I do not think that this project stands as a proper introduction to Macy -- and may turn newbies and casual listeners of her music off -- I do believe that if you are a fan, you very well may enjoy this offering.