A covers album is a dual edged sword. It has the power to introduce a new, or different, generation to music they may have never listened to. A great song can gain longevity, possibly begin a listener’s exploration into the discography of the original performers. On the other hand, it’s seen as a desperate move by a has-been artist seeking quick, Billboard generated bucks from a hopeful hit single (not an album).
What few critics allow as an option is that the more positive synonym for a “cover” song is “tribute”. We all come from somewhere and most of us would love the chance to celebrate the heroes who inspired or helped make us.
MACY GRAY seems to be a bit of all of the above. Her choices are varied, maybe insanely, but more often than not, she pulls them off. If they’d been her own, her style on icons such as Arcade Fire’s ‘Wake Up’, Radiohead’s ‘Creep’ and Metallica’s ‘Nothing Else Matters’ would have been praised as an invigorating new approach to adult contemporary pop. But they’re not her own so it’s impossible to reinterpret and claim songs such as these that have become icons to their genres.
But My Chemical Romance’s ‘Teenager’ is a winner, a rock song laden with pop hook so that Macy fits right into it. ‘Map’, originally from the Yeah Yeah Yeahs, may not have the impact of the original but it would work well in a beach bar filled with youthful summer. Keeping in the fun vein, the highlight is the ragga vibed ‘Smoke Two Joints’ (song by The Toyes in 1983 and covered by Sublime a decade later). It’s such a comfortable moment that it almost demands that Macy take this direction with her next original album.
Enjoyable tracks also include AWOLnation’s ‘Sail’ and the Eurythmics’ ‘Here Comes the Rain Again’. The rest can be thrown away.
MACY tempers criticism with in between, self-mocking, comedic skits e.g. ‘I Try Is Cool And All But’ has Nicole Scherzinger advising Macy how to sing and be more like Britney Spears and others.
If you can throw away bias love for your musical heroes, MACY GRAY’S Covered is worth your listen.