Macy Gray
Photo: Greetsia Tent/WireImage
“I definitely have a funny voice,” says Macy Gray. Her trademark tone, scratchy and frayed like an old blanket, has been with her since it was fodder for schoolyard taunts. But on her album, Big (Geffen), Macy is nobody's fool. She delivers pop-soul duets with Natalie Cole and Justin Timberlake, and tosses off sassy lines like "You finally made me happy / When you walked out that door" without losing her crying-jag edge. “I grew up a little bit,” she says. “And touring stretches your voice so much, it just naturally gets better.” As she hits the road again, she tells us about her warm-up music:

Mos Def, Black On Both Sides (Priority): “This record hit when hip-hop got real ego-driven and materialistic, and it was very fresh, because he wasn't about that. The music is simple and raw, and he talks about his own perspective on the world. I thought it was bold of him.”

Led Zeppelin, Led Zeppelin II (Atlantic): “I like the rock 'n' roll of it. The energy is crazy. That song 'Whole Lotta Love'—the drums almost sound like hip-hop beats, but on top you have Robert Plant's brilliant voice. Every time I listen to it, I hear something different.”

Michael Jackson, Thriller (Sony): “I'll never forget when this album came out. I knew every beat, all the chord changes, the dance steps in his videos. As I got older, I listened to it for the musicality, for Quincy Jones's production. It was a highbrow pop album.”

Bob Marley and the Wailers, Legend (Island): “He wrote perfect songs. 'One Love,' 'Three Little Birds'—they're so complete, lyrically and musically. And it doesn't seem as if he even tried; his music sounds like it just happened, which is what we're all going for.”


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