On Trace la Route, the eagerly awaited follow-up to Christophe Maé's smash breakout hit Mon Paradis (2007), follows in the same direction as its predecessor, and though it lacks that album's easygoing charm, it's an outstanding effort that should delight the singer/songwriter's legion of fans. During the past few years, no one was more successful in the French pop world than Maé, who was showered with NRJ Music Awards for three straight years. He brought home French Revelation of the Year in 2007, and then won both French Male Artist of the Year and French Song of the Year for two years straight in 2008 and 2009. Maé was not only acclaimed as French pop's brightest new star; he was a commercial juggernaut. Mon Paradis spawned several hits, most notably the chart-topper "On S'attache," and the live album Comme à la Maison (2008) kept him riding high on the charts with a couple more singles. It wasn't until 2009, after two straight years of non-stop airplay, that Maé stepped out of the media spotlight for a while to work on On Trace la Route. He reassembled much of the team that had worked with him on Mon Paradis, including producer Volodia and songwriters Michel Domisseck, Lionel Florence, and Bruno Dandrimont. Multi-instrumentalist Felipe Saldivia was also a key participant in the making of On Trace la Route. The end result of their teamwork is a solid batch of 11 songs in the same mold as those on Mon Paradis. Like that album, this one boasts a handful of flat-out great songs. "Dingue, Dingue, Dingue" and "J'ai Laissé," the first and second single spawned by the album, get it off to a perfect start. Then, after a few lackluster songs that dampen the excitement sparked by the first couple, the standout eighth and ninth songs, "Je Me Lâche" and "Ne M'abandonne Pas," revitalize the album as it nears its conclusion. As for Maé himself, he doesn't sound as carefree and unburdened by fame as he did on Mon Paradis. An unfortunate air of pretension hovers over On Trace la Route, and while some of that surely comes along with the great expectations heaped upon the album, one can't escape the sense that Maé has been affected by the incredible success of the past couple years, and not for the better.
AllMusic Review by Jason Birchmeier