Remember when neo-soul queen Macy Gray was music’s “next big thing,” a recognizable nasally voice on the verge of a long, promising music career due her breakout 1999 hit “I Try”? For some reason, she never seemed to strike radio gold again. Worse, her acting career began to possibly submerge some of her phenomenal less-heard material. With the singer headed to town to play The Sinclair in Cambridge on Friday, we’re shedding some light on five other Macy Gray jams that are worth your attention.
“Why Didn’t You Call Me?”
This single, which was the lead track on her 1999 smash “On How Life Is,” was about as close as Macy came to a big follow-up hit in the US. A funky blues jam, it’s definitely more lighthearted than the anthemic “I Try” (from the same album), but one of the bigger party jams from her collection.
Before the Black Eyed Peas recruited Fergie and took off for the mainstream in 2004, it was a much different group — and arguably much cooler as a trio. One of its biggest pre-Fergie hits came with the vocal assistance of Macy Gray on “Request + Line” off the 2000 album “Bridging the Gap.”
Her 2001 album “the id” didn’t take off like Gray’s breakthrough record, but that doesn’t mean it lacks soul. For “Sweet Baby,” Macy recruits the vocal assistance of fellow soulstress Erykah Badu and the guitar work of Red Hot Chili Peppers’ John Frusciante.
Macy lends a hand on this Fela Kuti classic with the help of D’Angelo, the Soultronics, and Fela’s son Femi Kuti. The track appears on “Red Hot + Riot,” a tribute album celebrating Fela Kuti’s music featuring covers from Common, Me’Shell Ndegeocello, Dead Prez, and more.
“I’ve Committed Murder”
Gray tells a tale over a groovy, samba-like chord progression on this b-side from “On How Life Is.” While it remains tremendously soul-soaked, it’s the conga lines (and an odd whistle solo in the middle) that makes this track peculiar but enjoyable.