Wednesday, April 09, 2014

Big in Malaysia, Zee Avi Aims for U.S. Kids

They say you're not truly a worldwide superstar until you've made it in America.

For instance, how many people stateside have heard of Robbie Williams? This former British boy band member has sold millions of copies of his solo CDs, yet remains a virtual unknown in this country. But if you saw the Live Eight concert, Williams' reaction was almost identical to the one a reunited Pink Floyd received 20 minutes later.

To that point, Zee Avi is one of the top 10 Malaysians. Name one of the other nine. I dare you. The pop songstress has a dedicated fan base and is now seeking to expand her reach into the United States, by going through our children. The result is Zee Avi's NIGHTLIGHT, a nine-song set of cover tunes that you've heard before.

NIGHTLIGHT is a mellow collection of the very familiar, performed with stripped-down ukelele arrangements. "Don't Worry Be Happy" doesn't get much airplay these days. "Rainbow Connection" on the other hand, has been covered by everyone from Paramore's Hayley Williams to Sarah McLachlan. We're busily planning a bar mitzvah, so a simple version of Michael Jackson's "Ben" may get exposure at his event. For everyone else? Not so much.

Perhaps it's a cultural thing. Maybe Zee Avi, though well-intentioned, did not thoroughly vet her set list. It's been a while since I heard Joni Mitchell's "The Circle Game." I could have gone a few more years. And I never thought "Colors of the Wind" was one of Steven Schwartz's better efforts. Kudos to a timely rendition of Lou Reed's "Who Loves the Sun," however.

Zee Avi apparently traveled to Woodstock, New York to produce NIGHTLIGHT. Nothing got lost in translation or travel from such a distance. But it would have been nice to hear something original mixed in with such well-tread material. You can turn off this NIGHTLIGHT and still remember exactly where everything is.

NIGHTLIGHT is available April 22 through Zee Avi's website, Amazon, and iTunes.

Here is the video for Zee Avi's cover of Sara Bareilles' "Winter Song":

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