Macy Gray, "The Sellout"

79 Billboard Rating

Hindsight is always 20/20. And in the case of Macy Gray's latest-which she says "reflects my true identity"-it makes you wonder if her career would've lost as much steam if this had followed her 1999 breakthrough, "On How Life Is." During "The Sellout," the emotive, raspy-voiced singer delves deeper into the left-of-center vision that still feeds her engaging melodies and compelling lyrics throbbing with irony, humor and realness. Those characteristics shine on the life-affirming anthem "Beauty in the World," the torchy "Still Hurts," soul-pop gem "Lately" and "Real Love," a duet with Bobby Brown that skillfully balances the line between tongue-in-cheek and cheesy. Shifting effortlessly into rock mode, Gray delivers one of the album's best performances on "Kissed It," teaming with rock act Velvet Revolver on the spicy missive with its naughty-but-nice hook, "I was gonna leave you, then you kissed it." While not every track is a slam-dunk, Gray definitely recaptures her earlier promise.