Macy Gray began working on The Sellout just after her fourth studio album, Big, and the reasons it took three years to release are evident from the credits: she wrote lyrics plus music for most of the songs. The results of that effort are apparent, and they're not good. Gray wields one of the most naturally talented voices in R&B, but from the evidence here, she's not a songwriter, and her material for The Sellout proves she needn't worry further about selling out if she keeps on composing -- commercial success will easily avoid her. The first single, "Beauty in the World," has a lyric and melody by Gray alone, and despite the positive sentiments in the song, its melody is unmemorable and it includes a few embarrassing lines (e.g., "There is beauty in this world/So much beauty in this world/Always beauty in this world/So much beauty in this world/Shake your booty boys and girls/For the beauty in the world"). Still, there are a parade of collaborators on The Sellout, leading to plenty of solid moments, including the Rodney Jerkins production on "Help Me," the tender "Still Hurts" (written by Teedra Moses and Gray), and a few songs written and produced by Jared Lee Gosselin and Phillip White -- including "Real Love" with Bobby Brown, which succeeds wildly with its updated quiet storm production. Gray's vocals have only gotten better with time, and although she doesn't attempt to stretch at all, she's still one of the best-felt voices in neo-soul. As long as she avoids composing her own material without help from a few professionals, she'll ensure a long career.