Israeli Pop Star Eyal Golan Needs to Do Some Real Soul-searching About Love

Shallow and patronizing imagery of women and Mizrahi pop clichés are abundant in Eyal Golan's new album, but this won't put off his die-hard fans

Ben Shalev
Ben Shalev
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Eyal Golan.
Eyal Golan.Credit: Aloni Mor
Ben Shalev
Ben Shalev

The love affairs on Eyal Golan’s new album, “Lo Pashut Lihiyot Pashut” (Simple Ain’t Easy), tend to end after two years. It’s a clear pattern, and when listening to the album one can’t help wondering what it means. The song “Mami” begins with the words: “Two years have passed, it seems like a thousand, we had better times.” The song “Games of Honor” begins as follows: “You took a suitcase, it’s quiet for now, you packed a beautiful two-year love.” And in the song “Goda Boba,” which concludes the album, Golan sings: “For two years I gave my heart and soul, we were even talking about a wedding, now I’m out of the picture frame and he has taken my place.”

To remind us, for the thousandth time, that in Mizrahi pop songs in general, and in those of Eyal Golan in particular, the love affair almost always ends when the woman goes from the arms of one man to the arms of another, without a cooling-off period.

But what’s all this about two years? Once or twice, okay, but by the third time it becomes a kind of motif and one wonders whether the entire album actually describes one real or imagined relationship that ended after 700 days or nights, more or less. After listening repeatedly to the new album, I have no clear answer to that question.

My two best guesses are as follows: First, if there’s anyone who has developed a slight romantic obsession with the words “two years” it’s Offir Cohen, who wrote two of the three songs in which those words play a leading role. Second, perhaps Golan’s new album centers around the words “two years” for the simple reason that it lasts for two years. In other words, almost 80 minutes, which is about two years in terms of a pop album – although in recent weeks it seems that half the Israeli pop albums are spread over this unreasonable period of time. This is a kind of “pile it on, pile it on, pile it on,” as Golan sings in one of his new songs (the preceding line is “to pamper, to pamper, to pamper”) – art imitating advertising.

Shallow female images

Two years or not, the basic situation of the new album is as follows: She left, disappeared, apparently she’s already in someone else’s arms, and he remains alone, sad and thoughtful. The truth? You can understand her, and you don’t feel much like identifying with him, for two main reasons. One, which is quite evident in the first half of the album, is the tiring combination of self-righteousness and self-pity that typifies the guy Golan is personifying.

He’s alone in the room, or opposite the sea, swimming in thoughts, not sleeping at night, occasionally shedding a tear. But is he doing any genuine soul-searching at the same time? Not really.

“If I hurt you, little girl, if I hurt you I’m sorry (“Disappearing Moon”), “Maybe I was mistaken when I told you to go” (“Going Back in Time”), “To forgive and to give in to you even when I’m right” (“Flowers in the Desert”), “From every corner they say you’re right, what good is it to be right if I’m in an empty house” (“Goda Boba”). The possibility that he’s the source of the problem is usually hedged by “if” or “maybe.”

In general, as becomes even more clear in the second half of the album, his thoughts about women often arouse unease. I’m not talking about Eyal Golan himself, but about the man whose consciousness is reflected in the songs, written by a number of lyricists but supposed to represent Golan’s soul, even if he didn’t write a single word on the album.

The second reason is that quite a number of shallow and even absurd female images are portrayed in the new album. The girl whose entire essence is shopping (“Clothes and Gifts”), the unfaithful woman (“Goda Boba”), the cynical flirt (“Mazal”), the obsessive woman who calls 30 times an hour (“Suffocating from Love”). Sometimes it’s not exactly the woman herself but her girlfriends, who lie to her and cause conflicts between her and the guy (“Games of Honor”). And sometimes, quite frequently, the entire essence of the woman is that she’s simply beautiful and that all the men look at her and envy her partner. But she should know her place and not exaggerate by flaunting her beauty (“And you don’t stop, you wanted a party, you got the best there is maybe you’ll lower the flame,” from “I Have Only You”).

Golan’s serious fans won’t let reservations like these prevent them from enjoying the new album, of course. On the other hand, there are more moderate and selective fans, those who (like me) are attracted mainly by Golan’s wonderful voice. They will manage to suspend their textual reservations (or at least most of them) only in songs that, with a decent melodic content, combined with the voice and the singing, create the beloved musical material called “a beautiful song by Eyal Golan.”

An example? “It’s Dangerous,” the second song on the new album. It’s not as beautiful as Golan’s classics, but pay attention to the double takeoff maneuver! A double takeoff is when Golan’s voice soars for the first time at the start of the chorus and then soars once again in the middle. I’m a sucker for that maneuver.

Unfortunately, there are no other double takeoffs on the new album. There are of course single takeoffs, always at the beginning of the chorus. Few of them take place in songs with a pleasant melody (“Disappearing Moon,” for example, which along with “It’s Dangerous” creates the most beautiful sequence on the album), but most of them are wasted on a mediocre or clichéd melody. You have to make an effort to like those songs, and you’re better off focusing your attention on the meaty arrangements by Yaakov Lamai, which are like miniature symphonies of synthesizers in a Turkish atmosphere. The quiet songs, which are clearly not Mizrahi, those that try to be a kind of “Shlomo Artzi meets Coldplay in a honey factory,” are impossible to like, no matter how hard you try.

And the same is true of most of the rhythmic songs. For reasons known only to him and his strategic advisers, Golan decided to divide the new album into two sections, which are presented one after the other: The ballad section contains the first 10 songs and the playing field (also “expansion”) section includes all the next 10 (except for the title song). Because in the rhythmic part there’s a song called “Singing and Soccer,” we’ll go with the soccer metaphor. The rhythmic songs, which are disappointing for the most part, don’t arouse associations of a forward who continually fails to score, but of a forward who scores continuously opposite an empty goalpost, without a goalie and without defensive players.

The target is captured. The net is torn by the force of the kick. So what? There are no smart plays, no interesting tricks, no tension and release. As in the ballad section, on the rhythmic playing field there are positive flickerings here and there (for example “Don’t Say No to Me”), but a good song only here and there on such a long album doesn’t make a game plan.

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