Tuesday, October 27, 2009

Shwekey's New Album, Ad Bli Dai

It has been a long time since my last post and I was hoping to listen to some fresh new music, so I picked up Shwekey's latest album, Ad Bli Dai.

As I noted in my review of Shwekey's previous album, a change in course was the only thing he could possibly do to stay relevant and cool. It hasn't happened and, by inertia, this album is not really a new album, it's just more of the old.

Let me get more specific. The opening song Areivim is a complicated choice for a first song - little energy, not catchy and not a innovative arrangement. This is at best the traditional "filler" song but right at the start of the album of JM's most popular singer.

Teshuva is arguably Yossi Green's least original song in a long time. It's hasn't the usual YG taste to it.

Veshochanti and Naase Venatzliach are already better and I cannot criticize as much. It's a little different and it's acceptable. But then it comes Mimkomcha I wonder what Shwekey liked about this song. I can easily spot Waldner's hand in most his songs, but in this one I was surprised to see his name in the credits. To compose a slow, mellow Mimkomcha is the same as composing a new slow, mellow Hamalach Hagoel - nobody can hear it anymore. Just a few Mimkomcha's that come to my mind - Mendy Wald's, Shlomo Simcha, Avrumie Flam, Carlebach (lehavdil). And here again, Shwekey goes for such a song. And the same goes for Ad Bli Dai - Dedi, Shnitzler and others have similar songs.

I always do my best to write even-handed reviews but I'm afraid I cannot go ahead and start saying wonders about this one and it's a case point of what going on today in mainstream JM - little originality, courage or musical beaktroughs. Yes, Shwekey can still sing beautiful songs like the uber-popular Vehi Sheamda but this is not Shwekey's signature kind of song. Vehi Sheamda is Razel's shtick and Shwekey was only the best way to make this song popular. When it comes to put a project together, Shwekey failed to bring us his usual hit songs. I miss Yedid!

PS: I did modify this post a little in response to the harsh comments I received and I did my best to soften the tone.

31 comments:

Anonymous said...

Well, Well!! I'll try to keep my tone mildly.. I beg to differ with this write up. It seems like you have something very against Y. Shwekey personally. I have bought this past 3 weeks- 6 new releases and Yaakov Shwekeys beats them all!!! Every single song is beautiful, classy and yes! the slow songs are soo nice and hartzig.. Every day by davening, since this tape came out, when i say Hashiveinu Tshuva- i stop and humm this song to myself.. I just get such a warm feeling... And the song mimkomchu is soo hartzig!!! I get chills when i listen to it...

I dont know how you can jusst degrade in 1 moment 100s of hours of work somebody put in. I never ever commented online on any website. This is my first comment becuase i just felt that i couldnt just close the computer without telling you that there are hundreds, thousands of people that lovvvee this new tape and i'm proud to say that its one of the best tapes from all releases.

If you got something agains a singer - then be so nice and keep your mouth shut... It seems like youve got that bad attitude even before you started listening to the cd and you were just sitting there and searching for criticsm...

Think before you voice your opinion to hundreds of readers out there!!! THIS is not called a fair review... Your biased.

YK said...

Anon,

I respect your opinion. We all have different ears and musical preferences and I'm not claiming no one will like this album. For me, an album can sell well and still be pointless in terms of innovation and originality.

I very rarely criticize an album but if I paid a fortune for it and was expecting to hear something good, I feel entitled to voice my personal opinions.

YK

Anonymous said...

Thanks for your review, YK -- it's been a while since an old-school JM blogger has taken on a mainstream album like Shwekey's in a detailed way. While I think your review is a little harsh (reminiscent of another former JM blogger's reviews, perhaps?), I think you make some good points. I didn't hear anything in Shwekey V that sounded different than his other albums.

YK said...

Anon

I just want to make clear I've nothing against Shwekey. I love many of his songs but now that he has become super-famous and the number 1 singer in JM the stakes are higher and I come to expect a little more from him. He has all the tools to produce something great, as he has done in the past, but it seems to me that he is not breaking any new ground in terms of originality.

I'm even thinking that now is Lipa-time and that Shwekey will not be bringing any breakthroughs any more. Lipa today is much more original and cool than Shwekey, specially if you compare their latest albums. You disagree?

YK

Anonymous said...

I do agree that currently Lipa is much cooler than Shwekey, and that he IS probably the most original artist in the mainstream Jewish music world right now. However, I think that Shwekey still has a very attentive audience in very yeshvish circles, among people who are not necessarily looking for originality.

In general, the whole JM scene continues to confuse me more and more, to the point where I don't know what to make of it. Over the past few yeas, there has been an influx of new, young singers who all work very hard to be original, have their own sound, and even to incorporate non-Jewish musical influences...but nothing has really impressed me much as of yet. I feel like this is why the old-school JM bloggers have sort of given up on reviewing the new "shiny-shoe" albums and have been paying more attention to alternative, outside-of-the-box artists (or stopped blogging much altogether, like you).

YK said...

Anon,

Your analysis is perfect.
I think most JM listeners are into the shiny-shoe business and that tempts many singers to just keep doing more of the same. My criticism will not look good to this public but I'm not afraid of saying the truth as I see it. Music for me is originality and that is it.

Lipa is clearly ahead of them all mostly because of his innovative lyrics, something I have lobbied for a long time. I just wished we had such good lyricists for songs in Hebrew...

YK

Anonymous said...

i agree to comments all the way how could u say its original and on top of everything the guy just sings with no feeling

Anonymous said...

and just forgot to mention of course lipa is the king of the new generation after mbd and avremale

YK said...

How come everyone is posting anonymously? Come on guys, give names.

In any case, Anon, I don't think Shwekey sings without feeling - he actually seems to be into his songs. The problem is just that the songs are below average. I think Lipa is ahead of Shwekey And Fried right now, and I think he will be up there for a while.

YK

Anonymous said...

he seems into something but it sounds like he is more into himself n about lipa being ahead of freid maybe yes or no but freid is already a leagend like the king mbd so lipa needs many more years to catch up but from the new generation ofcourse he is the king

YK said...

I agree.

YK

Anonymous said...

YK:
I for one appreciate an honest review.
That being said, you cannot use the words "king of Jewish music" on anyone other than Reb Mordechai Ben Duvid.
While MBD's voice is not where it was five years ago, his originality and hartz shine on his latest album Kulam Ahuvim.
Btw IMHO the best fast song composition of the album and , for that matter, of the year goes to Aron Razel in Me'en Hasimcha. MBD and Razel knock that song out of the park.

YK said...

Well, Carlebach was also the king at his time, in my opinion and had possibly a even stronger impact in JM. But I agree with what you said.

YK

Joel said...

I'm a little late to conversation, but i would like to add my two cents.
YK, I commend you on your review. Touche! Shwekeys album was lackluster and offered nothing of worth other than track 3,10 and vhi shumdah which was from ceasaria. The arrangements were stale the lyrics were mostly overused. Shwekey has reached a level where people just buy his album because its a Shwekey album.
I wrote a guest review for lifeofrubin but he wouldn't post it because i mostly echoed your sentiments.
The culture in the jm blogs is to review an album only if they like it. Thats why you saw no reviews of this album. Rubin claims he was going to review it but never did.
The first anonymous post sounds like a shwekey employee.
I have had issues with the objectivity of bloggers who only write positive reviews and call every release a materpiece. But I also understand that the worst loshon hora one can say is LH that cause one to lose parnassa.

YK said...

joel,

can you email me your write-up? I'm just curious to see what you wrote.

it's no secret that singers make their money from weddings rather than from the albums. the only one losing parnassa is me, specially considering that I paid 20 euros for this album!

YK

Shimon said...

Just a quick comment with some food for thought on Shwekey and Lipa (I love both by the way).
Being Cool isn't always a plus in the long run. Recently Radio Kol Chai tried to sum up the last decade of Jewish music (they actually did a pretty decent job of it).
In the top 50 songs there were 5 by Shwekey (including 3 in the top 15) and 0 by Lipa. The broadcasters commented on this fact noting that Lipa's songs are too shitky. They seem to need Lipa's unique style of presentation and are hard for others to sing. They don't fare so well in the test of time.
This is an interesting point which bears some consideration.

YK said...

Shimon,

You make an excellent point.
It does seems that the more yeshivish songs are always the ones that become wildly popular. Any theories?

YK

Hislahavus said...

1. If you want good lyrics in Ivrit, check out Shuly Rand's "Nekudah Tovah". Awesome CD.
2. Yeshivish likes singability - many of Lipa's songs are musical talent. There's a MAJOR difference between the two. Lipa is developing an art, or his inner expression; most yeshivish singers are trying to produce a song that becomes a staple at every Kumzits.

Most JM listeners just don't seem to be that sophisticated to appreciate stuff that's REALLY good.

YK said...

Hislahavus,

1. Didn't you read my review of Shuli Rand's album? I'm a major fan and lobbied very strongly for him in last year's JM Awards. The king of lyrics.
2.I think so too. I believe a large chunk of JM listeners are not really into original music. They just want more of the same. But there is also people like us (or me), who like different things. In other words, there's a market for both sub-genres.

YK

Hislahavus said...

I had not seen it, and will read it now. On these lines, I'll have an article up on JMR soon G-d willing on other Israeli albums like it (out of the box JM), as a continuation of my series "Alternative Jewish Music".

And I agree that there's room for both.

BTW, regarding Mimkomcha, you missed 3 MBD Mimkomchas!

Sim said...

Wow, there is a sense of LAshon Horah that has to be adhered. 1) the answer to your speculation of the more Yeshivishe a song is the more popular it gets is pretty simple - a funky cool song while it is quite entertaining or enjoyable to listen to -It will not be sung at a wedding- as a wedding singer myself the way you know you were succesful is by seeing how well the crowd adapts to your song choice. Also in terms of Lashon Horah, as frum Jews we are obligated to keep ourr negative opinions to ourselves especially if it could result in a loss of parnasa, which I feel quite confident that this type of review would do...
All the best!

Shimon said...

I'm not sure giving a bad review of an item which is publicly marketed would be considered Loshon Hara. It is specifically being put in front of the public to be judged for better ofr for worse.
What about the money of the many potentially disappointed buyers?

As far as hebrew lyrics check out Ovadia Chamama's Keshehaneshama Meirah - Simply Amazing.

Yossi said...

i actually think that if you liked shwekey once and enjoy lipa now, plus you think he is better than fried, your taste of music has definitely changed, so, don't expect shwekey to change and have any "cool" or "fresh" sounding songs, because his style will continue to be catering to his crowd, i.e. the crowd you once belonged to. Shwekey, as most commentators here have pointed out, hasn't changed his style, and kudos for that, for being true to himself. There are many people that just want to hear true heartful songs and don't care of how new they sound, i.e. fans of shlomo carlbach or the ever popular yehuda green etc. And by the way, carlbach never changed his style in his 40 years of making music!

I specifiably disagree about shwekey's song Teshuva. I believe its the most hartzige song on this album, and towards the end of this song, he does some incredible vocals that i've never heard from shwekey ever, a truely inspirational song. Just so you should not say i am biased or that i am not a valid opinion, the up and coming benny friedman has rated this song his best on the album!!

YK said...

HIslahavus,

I forgot to refer you to my post about Shuli Rand's Jerusalem concert a few months ago. It was really nice and he unveiled his Elokai Neshama (great!) then.

YK

YK said...

Sim,

Most but not all songs depend in the wedding factor. Think of Carlebach, which had many non-wedding-friendly songs that became hits.

YK

YK said...

Shimon,

I have Chamama's latest album but to me Shuli Rand's is much better (ok guys, start the Loshon Horo charges again). But I do absolutely love his Ana Bekoach, which is immensely popular in Israel but never got any buzz in the US.

YK

YK said...

Yossi,

"or that i am not a valid opinion" - those who have been following this blog know that I value all opinions, even if they do not agree with mine. I don't expect everyone to think the same way.

You cannot possibly compare Shwekey to Carlebach. Carlebach is a composer, Shwekey is a singer. Carlebach created his own musical genre, Shwekey didn't. Carlebach had an universal appeal while Shwekey pleases the crowd you refered to.

And by the way, Carlebach did evolve musically throughout his lifespan. Only a fraction of his songs became extremely popular; many other crazier songs didn't make it. I have the recordings.

YK

Yossi said...

YK, My point wasn't about comparing carlbach to the likes of shwekey, rather to compare that they both have a loyal following despite that theyr styles of songs have hardly changed. And carlebach never changed his style to sound more modern or "in style"...

Hislahavus said...

Re Hebrew Lyrics - have you heard A Groyse Metsie? Their first album doesn't have that much lyrics going on, but check out their website for their new stuff - www.groyse.com. Wild ideas, and crazy stuff. (Hashem is, among other things, "Psycholog mispar echad").

Anonymous said...

I only read the first few posts, but I must agree that this album is not very good at all. I used to be obsessed with shwecky, but Ad Bli Dai is one of my least favorite cds. I almost don't want to listen to anymore shwecky

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