Macy Gray - Big

Macy Gray is back and this time she's BIG! Yup, after taking time out since her third record flopped, Macy has hooked up with the 'genius' behind the Black-Eyed Peas, Will.I.Am, and Big is the result. Featuring contributions from one Mr Timberlake and - God help us - Fergie, one of the record's main aims seems to be chart power. On How Life Is was an instant classic - can this match up? Needless to say, Gray's voice is still the biggest draw, soulful as ever but retaining that distinctive scratchiness that caused some critics to liken her to Marge Simpson. The only problem is the songs. Pretty big problem, eh?

Lead single Finally Made Me Happy, featuring Natalie Cole, is so overblown that its inherent soul is whittled down to nothing while What I Gotta Do is a sickly saccharine ode to Gray's three kids. Meanwhile, love songs like The One For Me and Glad You're Here are clean and 'safe' compared to the rougher edges of her earlier ballads. Surprisingly, Fergie's appearance on the latter track doesn't make proceedings as bad as you probably imagine - she just croons away on the chorus, none of her awful 'rapping' is on show here. The hip-hop groove of Ghetto Love and the murder-themed Strange Behaviour, displaying some of the kookiness and wit that made her first couple of records so interesting, raise the game a bit but it's a bit late for Gray to be fully redeemed. Then comes the embarassing Justin Timberlake contribution, Get Out, which falls so flat it makes you wonder how the hell this dude was the voice behind such ace tracks like SexyBack and My Love - I guess Will.I.Am don't got nuffin' on Timbaland. The less said about Treat Me Like Your Money the better; let me just inform you that it samples not only It's Like That but Pete Burns (!) and You Spin Me Round (Like A Record). No, I'm not joking. Really...

Big doesn't always mean clever, and this album is no exception. The more chart-oriented sound saps away the originality inherent in Gray's earlier career, none of the songs on offer matching the crazy charm of Sexual Revolution or the emotional power of Still. The voice is still intact, let's just hope she does something more worthwhile with it come album number five. And please, please, please ditch Will.I.Am!

Overall

4

out of 10

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