This Week's Israeli Pop Single Releases: Kutiman Soothes the Soul

Ben Shalev
Ben Shalev
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Kutiman.Credit: Tomer Appelbaum
Ben Shalev
Ben Shalev

It’s hard to think of another song that’s so instantly cringeworthy as Keren Peles’ new single, “Rak Elohim Yishpot Oti” (“Only God Will Judge Me) – actually, there’s also Subliminal’s “Halom Shel Kol Gever” (“Every Man’s Dream”), which came out four months ago and racked up 3.5 million views too many.

It’s not necessarily because of Peles’ clumsy allusions to current Mizrahi music – she did something similar seven years ago with the song “Peugeot 92,” and it didn’t work so well then, either. And it’s not because of the embarrassing rap segments. Okay, perhaps it is because of those things, too, but it’s mainly because of excessive use of the word “I” and all the different first-person verb conjugations. I stopped counting at around 25, and I think that was only about halfway through the song.

Why give singers a weekly column in a popular newspaper if not so they can fill it with all the mundane experiences of their daily lives, and then aim for something a little higher with their songs? Sadly, Peles also brings in the mother of Mizrahi music, singer Ahuva Ozeri, to join her. In all of Ozeri’s songs over the past 40 years, the word “I” appears less times than it does in these three minutes of Peles.

Riff Cohen – ‘Helas’

You don’t have to be able to read Honoré de Balzac in the original to understand that the first single from Riff Cohen’s second album is about a girl who’s got the hots for a boy who’s unaware of her feelings and doesn’t even notice her. The key phrase that keeps repeating, “Et tu ne me vois pas” (“And you don’t see me”), is comprehensible even to people who speak only the most rudimentary French, and the experience described is one of the most universal human experiences there is.

Keren Peles.Credit: Ziv Koren

Cohen doesn’t try to touch on the real profound pain that this experience can cause, though. The sound and beat of the song, not to mention the funny video that goes with it, make it plain she wants to keep the mood fun and upbeat. That’s fine – there are plenty of depressing songs about lovers who feel ignored by the objects of their affection. It’s just too bad that the way Cohen makes light of this situation isn’t all that satisfying or musically impressive. A decent beat, some cute keyboards, and a tune that doesn’t really go anywhere, despite the enjoyable groove. Which sort of puts the listener in the role of the boy – he sees Cohen’s song, but much as he might want to, can’t really get into it.

Kutiman – ‘Intergalactic Lovers’

Kutiman’s new song is an artistic advertisement for the online service Fiverr, where people in different professions (including many musicians) offer their services for payment.

Kutiman returns here to the format of the “Thru You” project that brought him fame in 2009 – i.e., he cut and pasted instrumental and vocal excerpts from numerous anonymous sources, creating one big groove collage.

This time, instead of using YouTube videos, he takes musical clips from about 20 musicians who offer their services on Fiverr. He is upfront about his method – on YouTube, the video is called “Inner Galactic Lovers [sic] (Kutiman mixes Fiverr),” so there’s no reason to expect great artistic innovation as in the original “Thru You.”

The aesthetic is copied straight from there, with the same dynamic of more and more instruments gradually being added. It also retains the same feel of natural flow, with little artificial cuts here and there. And the song itself? It’s nice, but there’s no wow factor. It’ll soothe the soul for a few minutes, and then fade away and be forgotten right afterward.