steering clear of the mainstream
since 2001

june 2010

review
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info opinion

Ali Slaight

"Trace the Stars" EP

Universal

Genre: adult contemporary, pop

Toronto, ON

Jan 27, 2009

There's one crucial difference between this prefab, precocious, preachy Berklee junior and Sarah McLachlan: McLachlan surfaced at age 30; Ali Slaight is 19. Otherwise, they're basically indistinguishable. Slaight's insipid tunes, like McLachlan's insipid tunes, are constructed from standard elements of the adult-contemporary playbook. They're much peppier, which is understandable given Slaight's youth, though it doesn't make them any less depressing. They're also even more generic, which is also understandable I just didn't realize it was possible. Insultingly, Slaight is being positioned as a singer-songwriter (on the cover, she's against a wall looking grizzled and pensive) when she's really just allowing her (impressive) voice to be exploited by majors as indie astroturf for commercial gain, Idol-style. Where McLachlan wrote all the songs on her megaplatinum breakthrough Surfacing, Slaight 'co-wrote' four of the six tracks on Trace the Stars, and that's listed as a virtue on the press release. I hope that's a white lie. The only tracks here that show any hints of personality the one where she boldly declares that friends make life better, and the one where she breathlessly talks to a bird and the moon would fit seamlessly into an episode of Dora the Explorer.

Universal is pushing two singles in ads plastered all over public transit in Slaight's hometown, Toronto: "Great Expectations" and "Story of Your Life." Think Natasha Bedingfield with barely any of the hooks or soul. The ads don't mention anything about the songs other than the titles, because they don't have to. I might add that the songs in question are mid-tempo songs in major keys with lots of loud piano, and also that they are both about you, and furthermore that both were actually written by real singer-songwriter Simon Wilcox, who has also written hit singles for Three Days Grace and Paris Hilton. I can see why they wouldn't advertise that last part though. If you're not sold yet, there's also the epic "Solitude," a four-minute power ballad about entering an environment rich with solitude. When I dream about getting home after a long, hard day and discovering that my roommate's out, I don't picture U2 playing a guardedly optimistic LOUD song about how fortunate I am to have the place to myself, while Bono bellows, "SOLITUDE, I WEL-COME YOU." I'm weird like that, though. Universal apparently believes lots of people aren't. Here's hoping they're wrong.

ali slaight's myspace

58%

Rhett Alexander

[Vitals: 6 tracks, distributed by Amazon, released 2008]