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On How Life Is

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Album Review

Macy Gray is such an assured, original vocalist that it's hard to believe On How Life Is is her debut album. She recalls a number of other vocalists, particularly jazz singers like Billie Holiday and Nina Simone, but she is unquestionably from the post-hip-hop generation, which is evident not just from the sound of the record, but the style of her songwriting, which is adventurous and unpredictable. Thankfully, she's worked with a producer (Andrew Slater, who pulled a similar trick with Fiona Apple's debut, Tidal) that lets her run wild and helps her find sounds that match her ideas. That's not to say that On How Life Is is a perfect album — at times, Gray attempts more than she can achieve — but it's always captivating, even during its stumbles. And when it works, it soars higher than most contemporary R&B.

Customer Reviews

Classic R & B makes a huge comeback

Hard to believe that anyone would pan this disc, but when I read the negative review here, I had to put my two cents worth in. Having played for 35 years with no little amount of success, and having been digging back into the R & B of the 60's and 70's, this disc, and Macy's live performance struck a strong chord with me. I saw Macy and her band open up for David Bowie last year from 15 feet away. What a show! As a bassist, I can tell you that her rhythm section is top shelf, and she can sing circles around many a more famous artist. As for the review suggesting she cannot sing, nothing could be further from the truth. This would be like suggesting Billie Holiday could not sing. She is a smoky voiced soul Diva, with style and panache, and has surrounded herself with an amazing supporting cast of musicians and vocalists. And to top it off, she is no one trick pony. What an eclectic musical mix, fun and bouncy, yet touching at times from both a perfromance and lyrical perspective. If you want to check her out, look for the SoundStage perfromance on TV. It is excellent! Five Big stars and a double thumbs up to a fabulous debut!

This is the hotness right here...

A classic album full of everything you'll want to hear. It's true, sad, funny, and out going. She's amazing. This is a debut album any artist would be lucky to equal.


I wore out the CD in my car after all these years and had to download the entire album. Every track is brilliant and fresh. I want to hear it again and again.... Her later work may not hold up to this promise, but if every artist created just one work of genius, that's quite enough. Brava!


Born: September 6, 1967 in Canton, OH

Genre: R&B/Soul

Years Active: '90s, '00s, '10s

Macy Gray parlayed an utterly unique voice and an outlandish sense of style into pop stardom at the turn of the millennium, appealing to audiences of all colors in search of a fresh alternative to mainstream R&B. After an accidental entry into the music industry, she reached the mainstream in grand style with a Top Ten pop hit, platinum certifications, and several Grammy nominations. Although her pop success dried up, she built a sizeable and unpredictable discography for a series of major and independent...
Full Bio

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On How Life Is, Macy Gray
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