Chabad’s Very Own Messianic Rasta #4

New York Newsday savages Matisyahu:

Matisyahu_cover_3But though the mood strove for the euphoric, and though the north-of-college-age crowd were rapt participants, the evening was hampered by a nagging musical flatness.

Because he employed only a sparse trio of guitar, bass and drums, the greater part of the burden fell on Matisyahu’s voice. And sadly, he wasn’t always up for the challenge. He struggled to hit the high notes in "Fire of Heaven/Altar of Earth" and failed to convincingly sell the clunky love song "Unique Is My Dove." Trickier still were the up-tempo numbers. Matisyahu has a nimble tongue and a fondness for speedy, tongue-twisting runs, but he has a tendency to hit the syllables like an understudy nailing his marks: with precision, but without any real sense of ownership. More troublesome is his insistence on employing a fake Jamaican patois, a device that only emphasizes that he is not from Kingston. Lacking the gruffness of dance-hall giant Elephant Man or the sweetness of reggae vocalist Sugar Minott, Matisyahu mostly comes off as a well-meaning mimic.

The same goes for his band who, while certainly proficient, were prone to bouts of unnecessary showiness. Their attempt to append a dub break to the end of "Exaltation" was listless and forced, and their occasional detours into meandering jams (the most unbearable of which ended in a drum solo) were ill-advised. In the end, the songs felt strangely starched, aping reggae’s cadence and loping bass lines but lacking all of its glorious dankness and mystery.

The moments when things did lock into place were genuinely exciting. In "Jerusalem," while the group worked a slow, surging groove, Matisyahu’s voice fit snugly between the whirring of bass and drums. "Close My Eyes" built to a gloriously frenzied conclusion, with the band consumed by a manic, frenzied jam and Matisyahu spinning giddily on one foot, grinning and raising his hands to the sky. If he can only figure a way to funnel that ecstatic personality into his songs, he might be onto something.

Sure. He could sing Yechi.

Tzemach Atlas reports the Boston Globe also trashes Matisyahu:

"Youth" might be refreshing, even inspiring, if Matisyahu’s delivery
made up for his material. But his voice is reedy and strained, and his
accent shifts from Caribbean to Hebrew to generic American with no
discernible connection to the songs.

The band wanders out of reggae syncopation into rock with a similar
lack of purpose. It feels like a preppy band that got through college
on drugs and audience indulgence before finding religion. Matisyahu’s
faith is his business, but comparisons to the spirituality of a Bob
Marley — one magazine, hopefully in jest, quizzes readers to
distinguish between the lyrics of the two — are a wee bit premature.

Rolling Stone also trashed Matisyahu. Their conclusion?

[T]he most exceptional
thing about Matisyahu remains the most circumstantial.

Just like today’s Chabad.

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6 Comments

Filed under Chabad Theology, Matisyahu

6 responses to “Chabad’s Very Own Messianic Rasta #4

  1. Anonymous

    who cares what the press has to say. Matisyahu inspires thousands of people. Even if he got up on stage and stood on his head for an hour, if it inspired people to do even one extra mitvah it’s cool. I think you should put out a cd of spoken word performances then go on tour, the people would love you, your album would definatly go platnum. It could be track after track about how Chabad let you down and how nobody gives you the attention you deserve. I got the tracklisting for you right here

    1. I can no longer be counted as part of a prayer group.
    2. I cannot lead prayers or receive any religious honors.
    3. I have been shunned by members at the request of the rabbis.
    4. Members are urged not to do business with me or to see me socially.
    5. I cannot work in religious-related business.
    6. I have completed rabbinic training but cannot sit for what is the equivalent of my boards.
    7. I have been told that there is no repair for my soul and that I will burn eternally in hell.

    BONUS TRACKS!

    1. Been threatened.
    2. Had websites hacked and destroyed.
    3. Had my home address and telephone number posted on the internet.
    4. Had thousands of dollars of magazine subscriptions and other materials illegally charged to my name.

    If you need a manager let me know.

  2. Yochanan Lavie

    I’d buy the CD. You can call the back-up singers the “api-chorus” (LOL). Seriously, I don’t care what the cherem-mongers think.

  3. Anonymous

    Shmarya ought to be nice to his enemies, after all, he made them.

  4. TzudikD

    Taking in to account the the religious get their music, trends, style and fashion cues 5-10 after its made rounds in the rest of the secular world, he’s right on schedule. The secular lost interest in his shpiel, but he should have another 4-7 years before the religious start losing interest.

  5. Nigritude Ultramarine

    Did Matisyahu ever attend yeshiva?

  6. I believe he attended Hadar Hatorah for a year or so.

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