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“When I See You” – Macy Gray’s hot new single

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Macy Gray has a new single out in advance of her upcoming new album The Trouble With Being Myself, “When I See You.” In short, it’s one of the couple of finest new songs to come out so far this year.

This record puts me in mind of Motown, in the best way. It doesn’t sound like any particular Motown record, but it represents a kind of professional r&b pop with a lot of soul. I can hear the assembly line rolling under this one, with proper attention paid to all the parts of the melody, lyrics, production. This is proper professionally constructed record making.

This isn’t just another love song though, but something much more specific. She details a woman not quite ready to make up with her boyfriend. Better than any but a few songs even from Motown, she packs in several different levels of conflicting emotions working themselves out. She exudes the happy anticipatory joy of make up making out in the bouncy phrasing of the title [“When – I – see ya, I’m gonna kiss you all over your face”], and the underlying funky guitars.

Yet she works in the hesitation, the fear and apprehension that’s holding them both back. Feel the pain and drawing back not just in the words but in the melodic phrasing of “I’m hesi-TA-ting cause I don’t want another fight.”

Ms Gray’s unique vocal instrument contributes much to that effect. She has sort of a Ray Charles style voice, and she knows how to work a little rasp. She’s a pretty remarkable singer.

Indeed, she has a greater vocal presence and effect than any female singer in the classic Motown stable. Diana Ross sang perfectly well, but as a vocal performer she couldn’t hold a candle to Macy.

Perhaps Diana would have been considered cuter, or a better clothes horse. Even for sexy though, Macy does it for me personally ten to one over even classic 60s-era Diana Ross. And what exactly does she mean by “Spray your love all over my face” at the, uh, climax of the bridge? She just slips that in all innocent-like.

Ms Ross did have the advantage of Holland-Dozier-Holland writing her songs. I don’t want to overhype Macy, leaving you disappointed at having something less than a fully religious experience when you hear the record. The underlying song does not have quite the pure dramatic impact of “Love Child” or “Reach Out, I’ll Be There.”

You can have a song a half-notch below “You Keep Me Hanging On” and still have a really outstanding record, though- especially when you’ve got one of the greatest vocalists of a generation at the mic.

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  • http://www.spreegirl.net Ren

    “unique vocal instrument” – it sure is, and it sounds awful. I’m of the firm opinion that if you can’t sing scales, then you can’t sing at all, and that woman cannot sing. I’m sure the song itself would be better if it was sung by someone who didn’t sound as if they chain-smoked all their life.

  • http://www.morethings.com/log Al Barger

    What, you’ve heard her fail in an attempt at singing scales? Have you lost your mind?

    You’re probably one of those people who say that Dylan can’t sing. You probably think those glee club idiots on American Idol represent good singing. Or perhaps Mariah Carey. Cha, right.

  • http://www.foliage.com/~marks Mark Saleski

    i think of macy gray as the possible love child of aretha franklin and tom waits.

    singing scales? who gives a crap.

  • Eric Olsen

    don’t forget the hippie vibe too, I love that

  • http://www.morethings.com/log Al Barger

    Aretha Franklin and Tom Waits? You’re scaring me now.

    She’s a little bit hippy, but not too much. In music, I tend to associate “hippy” with sloppy, half-assed bands like Joplin’s Big Brother or the Dead. They would be distinguished by 1)minimal technical proficiency on their instruments, and 2)rambling on at great lengths to display their lack of skills, ie playing a 3 minute song for half an hour. Neither of which describes our beloved Macy.

  • DR. D

    MACY CONTACT YOUR LIMO DRIVER “DR. D” IN ATLANTA, GA.

  • MACY

    Dr. D:

    Get your portly booty back over to the Walmart and pick me up! I have been waiting for you to come back for 3 weeks! Luckily, one of these redneck RV couples vacationing in the parking lot have taken me in. Hurry, they are trying to adopt me!

  • Eric Olsen

    Now that’s the hippie vibe I was referring to – not sloppy, but inclusive. Get with the cool side of the multi-culti program, Al. Lenny Kravitz will be visiting you soon.

  • david

    Look, Macy’s heart is in it, but her ears are not. LISTEN to the tag notes, the runs, the leading notes, ie. everything but the main melody- all those notes are plain out of tune! it’s like she doesn’t know where the pitch is so she just floats ALL over the scale trying to hide her pitch problems. there’s nothing wrong with expression, but there is something wrong with doing poorly.

  • Alonso Solórzano

    I love this review, so strong & finally someone who really knows this song totally rocks & it’s so funky & unique. This song made me even a bigger Macy fan & her “The Trouble With Being Myself” album is my favorite album from her. This album is SO good, maybe not popular, but it’s one of the Top 3 Best Albums Of All Time. I really like it a lot. Not everyone likes it, but that doesn’t mean it isn’t one of the best only because of that. :)