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Macy Gray, ‘The Trouble With Being Myself’ (Epic)

She tries to say good-bye, then offs her boyfriend’s boss. She tries to walk away, then puts a gun to your head. Don’t you sometimes think Macy Gray tries just a little too hard? The latest murder ballad from the author of “Gimme All Your Lovin’ or I Will Kill You” is “My Fondest Childhood Memories,” in which Li’l Macy ices the baby-sitter for “sexing” her daddy, then whacks Mom’s beau as well, before closing with a moral even Lynne Cheney could get behind: “My parents are still happily married / Thanks to me.”

In an R&B universe full of hoochies and ingenues, Gray is perpetually auditioning to play the wacky neighbor in a hypothetical UPN sitcom–or maybe the psycho ex-girlfriend. But the state of the world has given her trademark mood swings a subtext.”Don’t hear nothin’ but bad news lately / And all my family has gone crazy,” she sings on “Screamin’,” then concludes, “But I guessit don’t matter / ‘Cause the world is gonna end.” If she’s gonna die, she’s gonna die with her boots knockin’.

Her carnal joy–and the glossy pop funk that accompanies it–can be so cartoonish that you wonder if she’s trying to unite the planet through free love or just celebrating the fact that she survived the Green Goblin’s attack on the World Unity Festival inSpider-Man. But as a current-events commentator, Gray’s got better beats than The New York Times and funnier lyrics than Fox News. And Trouble‘s first single, “When I See You,” argues convincingly that makeup nookie with Macy would be worth enduring the occasional death threat. And after all, as the “terror sex” phenomenon taught us, a taste of one’s mortality can make for fun in the sack. Why not on the radio, too?