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Macy Gray: Anything But a Conventional Talent

2006-07-23 16:44

  Macy Gray is one of those vocalists that leave fans and critics alike scratching their heads in search of not just superlatives1, but valid2 comparisons3. Gray isn't imitative of anyone in particular, though, but like some of those singers, her eccentricities4 are what you notice first. She's anything but a conventional talent.

  Gray was born in Canton, Ohio. Her father was a steelworker, her mother an eighth-grade math teacher. When she was young, she thought that her voice sounded funny——no arguments there from the neighborhood kids, who tormented5 her to the point where she simply stopped talking. Singing seemed even further from the realm of possibility. " I never thought I could sing," Gray told the Associated Press. " It never even entered my mind when I was little. That was the last thing I thought I could do." But she did love music and quickly absorbed the sounds of her parents' record collection. Hip-hop6 was also in the air at the time, and during a couple of years spent at a predominantly7 white boarding school, she was exposed to little other than rock music. At the same time, Gray was studying classical piano, which she pursued for seven years. She was still self-conscious8 about her voice, though, and she never sang a note9.

  That changed when she moved to Los Angeles, though. Her California sojourn10 was prompted by her enrollment11 in the screenwriting program at the University of Southern California Film School. A friend who owned some recording equipment sat down to write some songs with Gray, and they demoed12 the tunes, with Gray providing the guide vocals. Later, another singer would come in and record over her parts. Her friend left Gray's part intact on one song, and when the tape began circulating, her performance got all the attention. Soon she was being sought out by a jazz band that wanted her to sing standards on the L.A. hotel circuit. Gray thought of it as easy money.

  In the mid- '90s, she was signed successfully by Epic Records. Of course, Gray's songs were pretty special to begin with. With a title like On How Life Is, you'd expect her to be preaching13 a bit. Yet Gray's songs are not at all didactic14 sermons15 but rather intensely personal vignettes 16 ——the album is about how her life is, and it's eminently17 easy to relate to. Through it all, Gray and her collaborators cooked up18 an impressive stew19 of hip-hop, jazz, and rock. It caught the ear of listeners, who made " Do Something" a hit and turned Gray into one of 1999's most celebrated new artists. Her album graced a number of critics' best-of lists for the year, and she was nominated for a Grammy in the Best New Artist category, which was otherwise mostly dominated by the teen sensations of the moment. Meanwhile, " Do Something" was nominated in the category of Best Female R& B Vocal Performance.

  Although the turn of the century saw Gray with a firmly established foothold in the music business, she had other ambitions, including a return to her first love, film. Whatever she winds up20 doing, she can finally relax about her voice. Despite its shortcomings back in the day, it's gone a long way toward making her what she is today.

  为某些歌手找到最佳的形容词和恰当的比喻是件令歌迷和评论家们都挠头的事情。梅西·格雷就是这类歌手之一。格雷从不模仿某个人,但她的古怪你第一眼就瞧得出来。她是个别无二致的天才。

  格雷出生在俄亥俄的坎顿。父亲是钢厂工人,母亲是八年级的数学老师。小时候,她觉得自己的声音听起来很滑稽。邻居的小孩们对此也无异议,他们挖苦她,以至她干脆不讲话。唱歌看起来压根儿是不可能的事。"我从没想过我能唱歌,"格雷告诉美联社记者。"小时候这个念头从没在我脑子里出现过。我认为那是我最不可能做的事。"但她确实喜欢音乐,很快吸收了父母所收藏的唱片中的乐曲风格。那时嬉蹦文化也开始流行。她在一所以白人学生为主的寄宿学校待了两三年,很少接触到摇滚以外的音乐。格雷同时还学习弹奏古典钢琴曲,一学就是七年。她对自己的嗓音仍旧感到难为情,从未哼过一个音符。

  待她搬到洛杉矶后,情况才有所改变。在加州的逗留缘于她报名参加了南加大电影系开办的一门影剧写作课。一个朋友有些录音设备,便开始和格雷着手创作歌曲。他们录制示范曲调,格雷导唱。另一位歌手后期加入,录下了她的导唱。她的朋友在一首歌里保留了格雷的导唱。盒带发行后,她的演唱引起了一致关注。一家爵士乐队很快找上门来,请她在洛杉矶各酒店巡演中演唱流行歌曲。格雷觉得这倒是件可轻易挣到钱的差使。

  90年代中期,她成功地与史诗唱片公司签了约。当然,格雷的歌从开始就听起来十分独特。诸如有首歌名为《论人生》,你以为她会有所说教。但格雷的歌丝毫不是诲人的说教,而是很亲切的个人经历。这张专辑描写她的生活,特别容易引起共鸣。在整个过程中,格雷和同伴们都炮制了一种令人难忘的、融嬉蹦文化、爵士和摇滚于一体的大杂烩。它强烈地吸引了听众,于是《做些什么》风行起来,也让格雷成了1999年最著名的演艺新人。该专辑在许多评论家所列的年度最佳歌曲清单里都榜上有名。格雷还获"格莱美最佳新人奖"提名,该奖项往往被当红青少年歌手独占。与此同时,《做些什么》还获"最佳说唱女歌手奖"提名。

  虽然格雷已在世纪之交的音乐舞台上站稳了脚跟,但她还有更多的抱负,包括重温她的初恋——电影。无论最后做什么,格雷终于可以对自己的声音释怀了。尽管当初有种种缺陷,但它却一路走来,造就了她的今天。

  注释:

  1.superlative adj.最好的

  2.valid adj.令人信服的

  3.comparison n.比拟,比喻

  4.eccentricity n.古怪,怪僻

  5.torment vt.折磨

  6.hip-hop 嬉蹦文化,嬉蹦音乐(当代黑人青年文化,以说唱乐、墙壁涂鸦、霹雳舞为主要特征)

  7.predominantly adv.占绝大多数地

  8.self-conscious adj.怕难为情的,自觉的

  9.note n.[音](一个)音,音符

  10.sojourn n.旅居,逗留

  11.enrollment n.入学,注册

  12.demo vt.[口]录制样带

  13.preach vt.说教

  14.didactic adj.教导的,说教的

  15.sermon n.说教

  16.vignette n.(描写人物的)简介

  17.eminently adv.明显地,突出地

  18.cook up [口]想出,策划

  19.stew n.混杂物

  20 .wind up 结束,把(事物)料理停当

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