Tuesday, March 8, 2011

On the Maccabeats

There was so much hype about the Maccabeats' Candlelight video that I did not feel the need to write about the Maccabeats around Chanukah. But the truth is that a post about the Maccabeats is long overdue.

I am not obsessed with the Maccabeats, but I am obsessed with their fame. Although from a musical perspective their songs are excellent and a pleasure to listen to, other a capella groups are more talented musically- groups such as Six13, for instance. They are excellent, but not the most amazing group I have ever heard. What interests me more is that a small group of YU students went from being nearly unknown to being close to 5 million views famous. While the Maccabeats are clearly talented, their fame is really due to two factors: Uri Westrich and the amazing video he directed, and secondly like with everything that is successful, they (unintentionally) filled in a missing hole in society. The world, or at least America, was filled with Holiday spirit and was looking to celebrate Chanukah too, and the Maccabeats' video hit the spot.

Candlelight was fun to sing and catchy. When I watched the video for the first time, my first reaction was one that I know was shared by many of you out there. I stared at the screen, whispered “wow,” and then watched it again. Like potato chips, I had to keep watching it again and again. I watched as the video reached the milestone of one million views, as news station after news station interviewed the Maccabeats, and I saw them perform Candlelight live at the annual YU Chanukah concert. As a graduate of Yeshiva University, I am proud of the Maccabeats for shining a positive light on YU, and as an Orthodox Jew, I am proud of the Maccabeats for making a Kiddush Hashem, and promoting Torah Judaism in a positive way. The media is often unkind to Orthodox Jews, labeling us as extreme, and the Candlelight video was like a fresh of breath air.

Today the Maccabeats released their new video, about Purim. Some of us devoted fans (and Facebook stalkers) have been awaiting this video, especially since the Maccabeats' status last week which hinted that it was coming. Before I discuss the video, here it is:

The difficult part about making a video after a hit is that there are tons of expectations, and a lot to live up to. Overall the Purim video was quite good and well done, but as could be expected, it was not quite as good as Candlelight. Let me start out with my critique and end on a positive note.

The main reason why the new video is lacking is that it is a poor song choice for a number of reasons. Firstly, because the song on which it was based is an inappropriate song. Due to the limited amount of time I spend listening to non- Jewish music, I had never heard the song "Raise Your Glass," by Pink before, and the first thing I did was search on YouTube for the original. (I will also point out that I had never heard of "Dynamite" before, and I immediately went to the original in that case as well). The first video that came up was the official music video of Pink for the song, which I am horrified to say that I watched, and strongly do not recommend. The lyrics of the song were mildly upsetting, but the video itself was extremely offensive. Putting the lyrics and video aside, "Raise your Glass" was a poor selection for the Maccabeats because it is not so catchy and difficult to sing. Candlelight can be difficult to sing, but the Purim Song is even more so. If people have difficulties singing it, then they won't. It goes nowhere. “I flip my latkes in the air sometimes” is much more catchy than “Raise your glass.” Additionally, the words “raise your glass” are part of the original lyric of the song, whereas “I flip my latkes in the air sometimes” is a line written by the Maccabeats.

My second critique of the video, after their song choice, boils down to the fact I would rename this video to "Candlelight: The sequel." Candlelight was not the Maccabeats' first video. Their "One Day" video was the first video, and it was drastically different from Candlelight both musically and stylistically. The Purim Song video is more of a synthesis of their two videos, without really adding its' own unique aspect. The Purim song takes themes from both previous videos. It shows the Maccabeats singing outside in their coats in the snow, which is very much reminiscent of the scenes in the park in the One Day video. One of the elements taken from Candlelight is that it features a reenactment of the story of the holiday on which it is based, in this case, Purim. Another similar element is what I will call the "holiday feast" scene, where the members of the group are casually seated around a table and shown chatting and eating. The only new element of the video is the introduction of children into the video. I don't know who those kids are, but they sure are lucky to make it into the video! Their parents must be proud.

Now on to what I liked about the video: Let’s start out with the amazing vocals, as always, the Maccabeats sound great! The video it self was quite amazing quality and extremely professional, living up to the high standard of the other two. The Seuda scene was perfect for film with tons of colors. It was just so colorful! The costumes were amazing, as a Harry Potter fan, I liked that costume, and every detail of that scene was perfect. I was also impressed with the Royal Palace, which was a perfect location for the portrayal of Achashverosh’s palace. The kids in the video were so cute and were just wonderful. My favorite part is when the guy in the Astronaut suit turns around to see the kid in the identical costume. Where did they find a kids’ version of that?

Despite the poor song choice that is just not catchy enough for me to sing along to, and the slight lack of originality, the Maccabeats’ video is fun to watch, a pleasure to listen to and overall I just have to say Yashar Koach to the Maccabeats and all of those who helped put the video together. May this video make a Kiddush Hashem just like the previous video, and may it be the channel through which the message of Purim is spread.



  1. Personally, i didnt like the first vid either. One of the biggest turn offs abt this video, check out the curl one the dude at 13 seconds. If that isnt gay, then im not sure what is! They remind me of the chevra, which is not a good thing@

  2. A group from Israel, The Fountainheads, put out a video last week also based on Raise Your Glass:


  3. Also, the original "Candlelighr" borrowed heavily from this version By DJ Mike Tompkins:


  4. Okay, the P!nk music video for this song is absolutely gross, but the premise of the song is the rise of the outcasts. It's supposed to be an anthem, I presume, of self-confidence in one's uniqueness. Looking at the lyrics, I don't see it being any more problematic than the original "Dynamite."

    Personally, I, for the most part, steer away from re-renditions (do the original songwriters get royalties)? I'll stick with original Matisyahu.

  5. Burnt Dreadlocks- I am not sure where to begin. Firstly, there is nothing wrong with being gay, only something wrong with acting on it, and I dislike the fact that you used that term in a negative way. Secondly, I am not sure which curl you are talking about. Lastly, I happen to like the chevra, so I think that is a good thing.

    Gabi- thank you for pointing that out.

    Bookworm- half of the Candlelight video is borrowed, but the other half is scenes interspersed that are original.

    Data- You are right- the idea and theme behind Raise Your Glass is a good message, and the idea of "dynamite" isn't amazing either.

  6. I think you understand what I mean. I dont care for political correctness. That is what has brought down our republic. The US was a great place until it became politically correct. They sound gay. Period. Its noyt necessarily a bad thing, but that is how they sound.

    Sorry, I meant 16 seconds.At 16 seconds on the left side of the dude dressed up as elvis's forehead, there is a curl. Whats funny is that on shades of grey, someone commented that the curl irks him as well.

    Then I assume you must totally DIG blue fringe. All I'll say is that our music styles are veeery different.

  7. OK now I see the curl. And my response is the same as Shades of Grey- he was dressed up as Elvis! It is part of the costume...

    Actually, I'm not such a fan of blue fringe. I like two or three of their songs, and they went downhill after their first CD. But we probably do have different tastes in music.

  8. Still, only a certain type of person can mutilate themselves in such a way.

    Wow, you got me. I would of so thought you would. Ever heard of 'Sakrfys'? U may like them.

  9. BD- I will just point out that the guy with the curl is engaged. I have never heard of Sakrfys, but I'm always open to new music, so maybe I'll look into it.
    PS for my taste in jewish music see my post: http://lifeaftersterncollege.blogspot.com/2010/05/jewish-music.html

  10. I get that he isnt actually gay. Its just as a native californian, things like that irk me.

    After reading the music post, I see exactly what I'm dealing with. U prob. will like sakrfys. I'm actually quite impressed by the broad range of artists. I personally am more into tribal beat sorta stuff. Hip hop, arabic, west african, reggae. Most jewish artists that try singing those styles stink. there are a few good ones however. Shemspeed has a ton of great stuff. If uve never been, check out shemspeed.com

  11. It does bear mentioning that the best parts of the Chanuka video were taken from Mike Tompson's video.
    As usual, the Jewish groups fail in the creativity arena. I'm still waiting for the truly creative Jewish hit. Well, I guess we have Matisyahu for that. Unless he's copying Bob Marley.

    Why is Elvis gay? He was profoundly heterosexual.

  12. This comment has been removed by a blog administrator.


Thanks for commenting! Comments are welcome, especially on old posts. Please do not use inappropriate language. Thanks!