I have fond memories of listening to the radio on New Year’s Day as a kid. We’d be driving in the car, returning from some not-so-exotic family vacation, listening to Casey Kasem’s countdown of the top songs of the year…debating amongst ourselves which song would emerge as number one.
Times certainly have changed. For starters, Casey Kasem is no longer with us. Second, the countdown I now listen to takes place in September, not January. And third, I don’t remember Casey ever wishing “mazal tov” to the winners.
This year, the listeners have spoken – and it’s become clear that the Israeli pop music scene now belongs to the next generation.
Sure, the old-timers continue to release music. GOOD music, too. But this year, it’s clear that the torch has been passed to a new class of artists who have captured the hearts and ears of the nation.
Want proof? Allow me to present to you my top five musical stories of 5777.
1. Chanan Ben-Ari proves he’s no “one-hit-wonder”
Last year, Chanan Ben-Ari released Galgalatz radio’s #1 song of the year, “HaChayim Shelanu Tutim” (the song reached #5 on Reshet Gimmel’s countdown). The song skyrocketed to success, perfectly capturing the frustrations, complaints and annoyances of anyone living in Israel…and then concluding with a list of reasons why he wouldn’t dream of living anywhere else. In the months that followed, Chanan himself lamented (in a funny music video) how hard it is to follow up such a mega-hit. Well, he’s done it. Coming in at the very top of this year’s countdowns, “Wikipedia” is a soulful, thought-provoking, and downright powerful – with an incredible music video to accompany it. As the coolest kippa-clad celebrity we know, we wish Chanan many more years of Israeli music success.
2. Eden Ben-Zaken is singer of the year – again
Sometimes dreams do come true. Young Eden Ben-Zaken finished in second place during Season 1 of Israel’s “The X-Factor” (2014), and has since captured – and retained – the throne as queen of Israeli music. Her Mizrachi sound fused with pop, soul and R&B influences has become an immediate hit with Israeli listeners, and in 2016, she was named one of Israel’s most influential people by Mako. Eden released her third album in September, 2017, following a year of chart-toppers including “Af Echad” and “Ratziti”. The Galgalatz year-end countdown included FIVE – yes, five – of her songs. Watch this “Malkat HaShoshanim” (queen of roses, the title of her first album) continue to reign in 5778.
3. From Ben-Ari and Ben-Zaken…to Zehava Ben
OK, Zehava Ben isn’t the real story here. Idan Raichel is…but I couldn’t resist the catchy headline. Anyway, Zehava Ben’s collaboration with Idan made her a household name for the first time in a while, as Idan enjoyed yet another year of professional success. Having parted ways with the “Idan Raichel Project”, at least for now, Idan has put his musical talents on display with a series of concerts called “Raichel, P’santer, Shirim” (Raichel, Piano, Songs), an intimate concert in which Idan performs his hits with the aid of only a piano and some sort of cool percussion contraption. If you haven’t had a chance to see the show live, fear not. Just a couple of weeks ago, Idan released a double-album of highlights from a series of shows held in the Shuni Amphitheater in Binyamina. At age 40, Idan is already the old-timer in this year’s list of musical success stories, but his golden touch continues to land him at the top of the list of musical celebrities, year after year.
4. The passing of Meir Banai, z”l
In an article about young musicians just starting to spread their wings, it’s important to remember a few who had their wings clipped way too soon. We lost a few big names in Israeli music this past year, including Ahuva Ozeri, Nachum Himan, and Amir Fryser Guttman. But the largest void for most of us will be felt in the passing of Meir Banai, who lost his battle with cancer at age 55. I will admit that I hadn’t really paid much attention to Banai’s music until after I learned of his passing…but shortly thereafter, I began to listen with admiration. Banai’s soulful style, soothing melodies and meaningful lyrics left an impact on me, as they will continue to leave an impact on his fans for many years to come. Our on-air tribute to Meir Banai included some of his greatest hits, and is worth hearing if you need to get acquainted – or re-acquainted – with the magic of Meir Banai.
5. Four words: “Static and Ben-El Tavori” (or is that five?)
Yup, they’ve done it again. Mere months after conquering the land of Israel with their undisputed hit of summer 2016 “Silsulim”, the boys brought us two giant hits this past year to retain their domination of the Israeli music scene. It began in January with the release of “Zahav”, which just may be my favorite song of the year. Apparently I’m not alone. Their fun video clip has nearly 34 million views on YouTube, and received more radio airplay than any other song for six straight weeks earlier this year (and took the #2 spot for three more weeks afterwards). Everyone from my five year old niece to many adults I know couldn’t get this retro-style song out of their heads. Just as that song started to fade away, summertime came…and what’s summer in 2017 without Static and Ben-El? So they released “Tudu Bom”…and, BAM! Nearly 38 million views, four straight weeks at #1…and we all learned two new words in Portuguese. Incidentally, most people I spoke to HATED the song at first…but soon found themselves singing along nevertheless (FTR, this cover by Tipex is much better). It’s been an exciting year for Liraz Russo (aka Static), Ben-El Tavori and their brilliant producer “Jordi” (aka Yarden Peleg). Can’t wait to see where their exciting careers go from here.
Well, that’s our year. Wishing all of my readers and listeners a wonderful 5778 – filled with good health, good times and of course, good music.