Asaf Avidan’s 'My Old Pain' and Four Other New Israeli Singles to Check Out

Four new singles by Israeli pop artists range the gamut from fresh trash to an abandonment of irony

Asaf Avidan ‘My Old Pain’

For anyone who has a hard time forging friendly relations with the eruptive, confessional emotionality of Asaf Avidan, the singer’s new single (in English) bears a modicum of good tidings. Avidan recorded his soon-to-be-released new album in Los Angeles with the producer Mark Howard, who for a long period was the right-hand man of the meta-producer Daniel Lanois, and also produced albums for first-rank American singers on his own.

Maybe it’s the famous restraint of the Lanois school, or possibly it’s the desire of Avidan himself to shift to a more moderate register. Whatever the cause, Avidan’s “My Old Pain” proceeds at a tempo of slow driving, whispery and contemplative, with fine instrumental work by American musicians who are in no rush to get anywhere. On top of which, the song includes a bonus in the form of an accompanying feminine voice, which together with Avidan’s voice generates the familiar and delightful color of male-female country harmony.

There’s only one problem, and not a small one: The song itself is undistinctive. It follows a routine, not to say worn musical channel and feels no need to depart from it. Which is moderation of the wrong kind.

Dana International ‘Yesh Li Ahava’ (‘I Have Love’)

A weird and surprising encounter between the Hebrew national poet Haim Nahman Bialik and Led Zeppelin takes place in Dana International’s new single. The song opens with guitars that quote the monumental riff of “Whole Lotta Love,” and shortly afterward we get “Bialik has an answer, what love is,” which also brings Arik Einstein and Rita into the mix.

Add to this a chorus in Spanish. If it all sounds like one big mess, that’s right, and that’s one of the reasons “Yesh Li Ahava” is a gladsome song. It declares itself a supposedly upbeat song about finding love – the opening lyrics are “I want to shout with all my might: I’ve found love.” But it’s a short-term love. “I’m privileged to love for the month ahead,” Dana sings.

In other words, it’s a song that says that immediate falling in love at high intensity – the only intensity with which Dana falls in love – will necessarily soon extinguish itself. “My soul was consumed in flame,” as the national poet wrote. That’s both sad and wonderful, both true and false, and Dana throws all those feelings into the blender and mixes them at top speed, with that metallic voice of hers. Trash, but fresh.

Tzlil Danin ‘Lo Over Li’ (‘Can’t Get Over It’)

If until recently the local Indie scene was replete with female writer-singers who played the guitar or the piano, of late the center of gravity has tilted far more in the direction of pop and electronic music. The song might be about heartbreak, but the woman performing it will set it to a dance beat and the clip will be in tutti-frutti ice cream colors.

Tzlil Danin is part of this wave. Her new single is a woman’s plaint against the unworthy treatment she’s getting from the man she’s attracted to. But instead of wallowing in negative feelings, Danin prefers to enjoy the groove. And there’s plenty to enjoy: The producers, Nimrod Bar and Yonatan Daskal, have fashioned the beat with sensitivity and style.

Still, it’s not convincing. Danin’s text sounds childish – “It’s not fair what you do to me,” “You don’t notice me” – and her voice and diction are far from expressing distraught, deep emotion. If you’re looking for a song about a guy who doesn’t see a girl, rendered as a hip clip with high production values, you’re better off with Riff Cohen’s “Helas.”

Shiri Maimon ‘Yesh Li Hakol’ (‘I’ve Got it All’)

Pop music after the various “A Star Is Born” reality shows favor songs that erupt with a dramatic outcry in the chorus. Shiri Maimon, with her iron vocal chords, is the embodiment of this approach. The good news about the eruption of the chorus in her new single is that she doesn’t press down too hard on the bombast pedal. That’s refreshing. But still, the surge in the chorus slips by, because Maimon is afraid to be ironic.

“Yesh Li Hakol” talks (with the articulate didactic quality characteristics of the songwriter Noam Horev) about a person who, in the face of the unlimited abundance of opportunities offered by the modern age, prefers not to commit himself to anything. The text underscores the pointlessness of this way of life, and the music follows pace by becoming fake-euphoric in the line “I’ve got it all, I’ve got it all,” which expresses the guy’s false consciousness. But then Maimon shifts gears, singing that she actually believes that the fellow will change and mature; and the euphoria, which now shifts into calls of “Awoo, awoo,” becomes direct and simple. The irony is gone. Maimon has to have a happy ending. Too bad.