“Besof Kol Yom” (“At the End of Every Day”) is the most Mediterranean-style album of the hugely popular Mizrahi singer (referring to Jews of Middle Eastern origin) Eyal Golan. Not because it’s the most Mizrahi in its sound. It’s not – regrettably, in fact, it forgoes Mizrahi electric guitars in favor of uninspired solos that evoke 1980s shows in outdoor stadiums. There’s a simpler reason that makes “At the End of Every Day” Golan’s most Mediterranean album – namely, that quite a few of the songs are set at or mention the seashore.
The first lines of the opening song (whose logic is not entirely clear) are: “Sometimes I go / To the seashore for no reason and with you / Look for autumn, for your heart / What it wants.”
Hardly have you finished shaking the sand from your flip-flops, when Golan is back at the beach. The second song, “Midday Friday,” is totally seaside, complete with beers, paddle ball and a girl’s tiny bikini. In the fifth cut, “My Old Flame,” the seashore is the ultimate site of romantic nostalgia: “On Saturdays of a hot August we made headlong for the sea / All the salt in the world didn’t sear like your tears.”
Surprisingly, in the eighth song there are no women. The protagonist goes to the seashore to be alone with himself and perform tashlich – a ceremony associated with Rosh Hashanah, of shedding one’s sins by symbolically casting them into water. These may be his own sins, or possibly those committed against him. “Throw into the sea fragments of mistakes, broken pieces of the alphabet Throw into the sea newspaper headlines, whisperings in the corridor Throw into the sea those who stop you with brakes, television and sex.” Golan strikes a quieter note on that last, highly charged word, while the music very much recalls the other superstar of Israeli pop music, Shlomo Artzi, whose unwavering, decades-long popularity Golan aspires to emulate – so far successfully.
But hold on – Shlomo Artzi and sex are diverting our attention. We’re at the seashore.
Why does Golan go there so often in the new album? I’d be happy to propose a general theory that would answer that question and incidentally also crack the secret of Golan’s commercial success and what appears to be his complete recovery after recent suspicions of sex offenses (the album went platinum – 40,000 CDs sold – within a week). But I don’t have any such theory.
Though I do have some ideas on the subject. To begin with, Golan is a pop artist with a highly developed functional consciousness, and seaside songs can easily become
mega-hits thanks to their functionality. Beach-related songs that are released in March-April are a master stroke. First you listen to them in the spring, because you’re already longing to go to the beach, and then you listen to them in the summer, when you go to the beach. In short, “Midday Friday” might well become this summer’s “Derech Hashalom” (Peace Road”). Avi Ohayon, who wrote it (together with Asaf Tzruya), was also responsible for Peer Tasi’s mega-hit.
But Golan isn’t interested only in light, functional songs. He’s a both-sides-now artist – a little bit of everything – so he also wants more “adult” and “high-quality” songs that transcend the insipidness of most Mediterranean pop. It’s important for him to sing lines like “I and me, with no one else / Are burning up engines on asphalt tails.” Noam Horev, who supplies him with these texts, is the most prominent and busiest lyricist in a new generation of songwriters in the Israeli mainstream, Mizrahi or not Mizrahi. Horev is very fond of the sea as a backdrop; it goes nicely with postcard-deep soul-searching.
An artist of a little bit of everything, and one who only performs and doesn’t write, needs strong anchors that will hold the eclecticism in place as a package with an easily identifiable brand name. Golan’s first anchor is, of course, his singing: undeniably, he’s an excellent vocalist. Another anchor is sheer professionalism. “At the End of Every Day” is the album of a pro. The reasons for his apparent rehabilitation after he was questioned by the police, at the end of 2013, on suspicion of having sexual relations with underage girls, might have something to do with the moral code of Israeli society. That’s a process beyond my analytical powers. But Golan’s success – as witnessed by the fact that my neighbor across the way simply doesn’t stop playing the new album – is due to musical reasons as well. I don’t like the album as much as my neighbor does. A lot less, in fact. But I enjoy some of the songs, and above all, I can’t deny that the guy knows what he’s doing.
Golan’s professionalism is most apparent in his choice of lyricists. There are four teams of them on the new album. Each of them addresses a different musical area, and the result is a composite work which, while it may not define contemporary Israeli mainstream, certainly sums it up well. For example, Ohayon and Tzruya are in charge of the semi-naughty groove – not their best work, but you do feel a presence. Even if in “Midday Friday,” as Golan sits in the car with the girl in the mini-bikini and sings “I’m a shy one, you’re a smiler,” you don’t know whether to laugh or cry.
The Mizrahi old school-retro slot is in the hands of Ofir Cohen, one of the best composers of present-day Mediterranean pop, but who unfortunately also writes lyrics. (The song “A Good Word” portrays women as dependent, hollow entities just begging for a good word from the husband – that is, their partner). Still, that song and Cohen’s “Life After You” have fine tunes.
But Cohen hits the musical jackpot on the new album with “The World Stopped,” the CD’s best song. When Golan, who delivers a marvelous performance of the song, comes to the chorus, a finger points upward by itself and humming along comes naturally: “I’m no longer grinning, the world stopped spinning / Since the day that she went and left me / The hours like frost, all hopes are lost / Tell me where she can be.” Fun stuff. It’s the only song on the album about which the neighbor and I are in full agreement.