The vocal looper is out. Netta Barzilai is going to Portugal in two months to represent Israel at the Eurovision Song Contest, but the instrument that helped get her there will not be joining her on her trip. She won’t be needing it, at least that’s the impression one gets when listening to “Toy,” the song she will perform at the competition, a song that was leaked to the internet on Sunday.
The looper creates songs that have a vertical structure. One starts with a bass layer which is sampled as it is played, with further musical layers then added to the base. That’s what Barzilai did in her looper-based performances on the singing competition television series “Kokhav Haba” (Hebrew for “the next star” for Eurovision. This was her specialty, an original and refreshing concept. For the decision makers on the road to the Eurovision, however, it seems that this concept left too much roomfor personal expression.
The logic behind “Toy,” which was written by Doron Medley and Stav Beger, is completely different. This is the horizontal logic of contemporary pop, consisting of nonstop bombardment of consecutive short clips a la last summer’s hit by Israeli musicians Static and Bel El Tavori, “Tudo Bom.”
Every 15 seconds, with scientific precision, a new song fragment emerges, grabbing the listener’s attention before making way for the next fragment. This horizontal assault on the senses is the exact opposite of the vertical construction of layers. The looper was Netta Barzilai’s toy up to now, but it has no place in her singing of “Toy.” That’s a shame.
“Toy” isn’t exactly a song; it’s more like something spewed out of a particle accelerator. If other competitors at the Eurovision are also products of particle accelerators it may stand a chance. Medley and Beger know which buttons to push and Barzilai performs it like a dervish. The recipe is as follows: 0-15 seconds, an impish opening; 15-30 seconds, a verse in the spirit of female empowerment, with a swallowing of syllables a la Sia; 30-45 seconds, another verse in reggaeton-rap style; 45-60 seconds, a slowing down on the way to launching, with a nod to Wonder Woman and a clucking hen thrown in as a bonus. I can’t make up my mind whether it’s cuter that way or more inane.
Then, after the hen, comes the actual song, about which two things must be said. First, there is no doubt that Medley, who wrote the lyrics, likes rhymes that end in “oy.” After giving us “I’m a golden boy, come here to enjoy” in 2015, now we get “I am not your toy, stupid boy.” When it turned out that Medley’s “Toy” will represent Israel at the Eurovision, many songwriters complained, arguing that Medley, who is close to the Tedy production company, benefits from positive bias. But the real bias is in the area of syllables, not songwriters. Why just “oy”? Where did all the other syllables go wrong?
Every country that competes in Eurovision wishes to express its heritage and power through its representative song. “Toy” is an excellent example. Israel’s two greatest assets are the Israel Defense Forces and Gal Gadot. The mention of Wonder Woman during the introduction to the song will remind the tens of millions of viewers that the revered Hollywood star is one of our own. With regard to the army, “Toy” doesn’t mention it explicitly, so as not to ruffle feather, but the song expresses Israel’s military prowess through a musical quotation that is unmistakable. When Barzilai sings “I’m not your toy, stupid boy,” the music closely resembles “Seven Nation Army” by The White Stripes. Let’s hope Jack White doesn’t hear this song before the Eurovision Song Contest. He may sue.