On my long Sunday evening drive, I listened to a 60 Minutes interview with Marshall Mathers, aka Eminem. It was interesting to hear him talk about how he thinks about words all day, playing with rhymes and rhythm. I was fascinated by his take on pairing words with "orange" – he denied the standard view that nothing rhymes with orange, and when challenged he proved the point, such as by dragging the first syllable so that the ‘n’ was almost inaudible (awwridge, practically), such that you could easily hear how it could rhyme with any number of words.
Most of all, I felt some measure of nachas (pride and satisfaction) in hearing the man talk about where he is now, his new strength, his role as a father. He’s clearly still angry, hurt, dealing with pain and mistrust, but he seems to have learned to use it as fuel, and this may be an early step toward getting past it. No surprise, I like his recent “I’m not afraid”, although I can’t link to it because the laws prohibiting ניבול פה still apply…
In any case: Listening to Eminem talk, I was reminded of why I’ve always been drawn to angry music – think Shinedown, Linkin Park, Three Days Grace. On some level their anger resonates with anger inside me, and that’s one associaton, but on a deeper level it’s the passion the songs express. It’s authentic, less entertaining and more personal, less of a performance and more the embodiment of a soul, and so it has a beauty I don’t find in songs sung for the sake of selling CDs.
This is my frustration with much of the Jewish music being marketed today: To me, the music lacks passion.
As a people and as individuals, Jews have plenty of reasons to feel anger, as well as love and fear and pain and joy. The words of our music often carry these themes beautifully. But the feeling seems to be that of a synthesizer rather than a human being.
Many of today’s artists do have catchy rhythms and artful voices and meaningful words and dance-friendly tunes, but I just don’t sense that the singers are emotionally “into” the songs. With the exception of Shlomo Carlebach, and perhaps the Piamentas in their live work, I can’t remember ever hearing a Jewish singer have what seemed to be an authentic passionate, religious experience while singing. Mordechai ben David’s אנחנו מאמינים בני מאמינים is a great song when people sing it live – but the commercially recorded versions seem canned to me.
Have I been listening to the wrong Jewish singers – have you heard some who are like that?