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. chaim

    shmarya this site is gay as hell!!!!

  3. Anonymous

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

  4. Fern Sidman

    I’ve listened to Matisyahu’s songs and I believe he is a positive force on the modern music scene. If his songs inspire the listener to explore his individual relationship with Hashem and take upon himself to perform mitzvos, then it can only be positive. I think he is a talented lyricist and his Jamaican intonations add flair to his songs. If non Jews are thrilled with Matisyahu and they can relate to him because of the familiarity with this type of music, perhaps they can garner a better understanding of Orthodox Judaism and the Jew’s relationship to his Maker.

  5. As loathe as I am to knock a BT, it’s clear that Matisyahu is cashing in on the novelty of his Lubavitchness, regardless of his intentions or commitment. The national attention span will invariably refocus elsewhere, and the quaint Chassidic beatbox will make his obligatory appearance on a future episode of VH1’s “one hit wonders.” I would argue that in the absence of a top 40 entry, the case is all the stronger that it’s the novelty that’s captured the national attention and nothing else.

    Seriously, before Lubavitch goes and pats itself on the back for spawning a Matisyahu from their outreach efforts, it needs to take a step back and realize that the general interest among goyim and Jews alike is superficial and temporary at best.

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

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