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Album Review

Macy Gray, 'The Sellout'

June 21, 2010

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It takes a healthy sense of humor to name an album “The Sellout’’ a decade into your career, long after the hits have dried up. Macy Gray, the saucy singer who gave us “I Try,’’ doesn’t undermine her integrity on her latest — the sellout in question is in service to love. But it does suggest she’s trying awfully hard to summon some of her funky late-’90s luster. On “The Sellout,’’ her first album in three years, the production sands off the edges that have been key to Gray’s appeal. “Still Hurts’’ smacks of a Ryan Tedder rip-off (imagine “Halo’’ and “Already Gone’’ on a tighter budget). India.Arie has taught us that self-empowerment ballads can be more original than this refrain from “Beauty in the World’’: “Shake your booty, boys and girls/ For the beauty in the world/ Pick your diamond, pick your pearl/ There is beauty in the world.’’ Sly and slinky, Gray sounds more at home on “Help Me,’’ wondering if she’s going to heaven or hell for being misunderstood. She seems to have forgotten that’s why we loved her in the first place. (Out tomorrow) JAMES REED

ESSENTIAL “Help Me’’

Macy Gray performs at Wilbur Theatre on Sept. 30.