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Macy Gray: The Trouble With Being Myself

Album: The Trouble With Being Myself
Label: Epic

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Macy Gray's sudden and spectacular emergence, fueled by Grammy exposure and top-volume Rosie O'Donnell endorsements, was enviable right up until the point when Gray had to begin writing and recording a sequel. As a follow-up to her best-selling and wildly acclaimed debut (1999's On How Life Is), The Id couldn't possibly live up to expectations, and it didn't: While fascinatingly messy, underrated, and full of crackpot odes to instability, it lacked the assuredness and accessibility of its predecessor. Clearly intended as a return/retreat to solid ground, The Trouble With Being Myself has endured far less advance hype, but its contents are appropriately uneventful. With the notable exception of "My Fondest Childhood Memories," which gleefully chronicles Gray's homicidal efforts to keep her parents together, The Trouble With Being Myself mostly treads familiar thematic ground, rarely deviating from well-worn topics of jealousy and infatuation. Unlike The Id, which featured an abundance of guest stars, Trouble wanders away from Gray only long enough for forgettable appearances by Pharoahe Monch and Beck on "It Ain't The Money." And while that focus on its star pays dividends during the winsome ballad "She Ain't Right For You" and the celebratory "When I See You" and "Come Together," it can't keep the album from plodding on the samey, mid-tempo likes of "Things That Made Me Change" and the syrupy "Jesus For A Day." In fleeting moments, Gray's remarkable charisma dominates The Trouble With Being Myself, but the missing ingredient is too often a simple lack of hooks. On a pop-minded comeback bid, that's a major flaw.