Israeli Pop Star Ninet's New Single: More a Whimper Than a Bang

With all the desire to get a carried away in the fire and brimstone, 'What Happened' has too many elements that leave you out of it all.

Ben Shalev
Ben Shalev
Tayeb. The best part is when she switches to speaking in a seething voice.
Tayeb. The best part is when she switches to speaking in a seething voice.Credit: Tomer Appelbaum
Ben Shalev
Ben Shalev

When it comes to the most popular female singer in the country since she won the first season of the Israeli version of "American Idol" in 2003, the burning question is, “So, how's the new song by Ninet Tayeb?”

The answer, it seems, has to be crystal clear and unambiguous: Either it’s incredible, or it’s awful. Not only because that’s always how the public has related to Ninet, but also because of the “I’m going full steam ahead, and I don’t give a shit you say,” approach she’s adopted, now that she’s in her post-national sweetheart phase.

Called "What Happened," her new single, and most "anti-sweetheart" offering to date, has received mixed reviews, however. There is much to appreciate in the song: the rage, the energy, the singer's decision to fan the flames at the outset with the lyrics “who is to say that those wearing the colored uniforms are heroes,” and the dynamic way in which she sings.

But with all the desire to get a carried away in the fire and brimstone, this new song has too many element that leaves you out of it all. Musically, there are some parts that are very disappointing. The seemingly irrelevant oriental keyboard. The guitars, which sound like a bad rock 'n roll cliché.

When a pop singer wants to make a sharp statement about reality, he or he has to do it with a sharp, refreshing sound. But when the sound is worn out, the statement fizzles out with it. Also, we are fed the lyrics with a crude spoon ־ “How can you save me from this hell if you are the scum.” More amusing than inspiring. And the line about short pants shows that lyrics can be too current.

On the other hand, there is one part of the song that momentarily silences the reservations, and grants all of Ninet’s, and the listeners’ wishes for half a minute. It happens when she switches from singing to speaking in a seething, venomous voice, and lets loose the following: “Who are you to tell me to hide my face behind a voice that apologizes for tempting the commander, the officer, the judge, the professor and the president.”

It’s all about a show she is making by dragging the figures of authority into the town square – the commander and the officer and the judge and the professor and the president. She repeats this three times, with suppressed fury that slowly makes its way to the surface – much like Rage Against the Machine’s classic example, “Fuck you I won’t do what you tell me,” from the song “Killing in the Name.”

It’s too bad that Ninet's rage against this particular male machine follows the earlier, sillier part of the song. There was potential here for a great crescendo.

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