Orthodox pop (your Avraham Frieds and Yeshiva Boys Choirs) often gets a bad rap. Yet just as even the Top 40 scene can produce true talent among all the shallow pop idols, Orthodox pop can often turn out legitimately fun, creative, even affecting music. "Choice Tunes in Orthodox Pop" is where we'll be looking at those standout songs and artists.
Yaakov Shwekey, "We Are A Miracle"
The best Shwekey songs have always been those where the subject matter is dramatic enough to match his famously emotional performing style, and "We Are A Miracle", the title track from the singer's newest album, fits that bill perfectly. Supported by a film-score worthy Yitzy Waldner composition that builds from war drums and chanted "woah-oh"s to a soaring, inspirational chorus, Shwekey recounts with smoldering defiance the centuries of persecution that the Jewish people have miraculously survived, throwing out such righteous-sounding lines as "The Spanish Inquisition, they wanted us to bow / But our backs ain't gonna bend, never then and never now". He gets additional support from the video, directed by Jewbellish's Mendy Pellin, which uses imagery from World War II and the Holocaust to build on the sonic intesity. If this doesn't stoke your Jewish pride, nothing will.
Mordechai Shapiro, "Schar Mitzvah"
Mordechai Shapiro is the latest former Miami Boys Choir soloist to pursue a solo career (others include Shloime Dachs, Ari Goldwag, and the aforementioned Mr. Shwekey), and has been building up buzz ever since his 2016 debut album, Kol Haderech, of which "Schar Mitzvah" is the second single. The song, composed by Elie Schwalb, makes for a fun R&B jam complemented by Shapiro's capable vocals and a heartwarming message about one good deed leading to another.
Gabriel Tumbak, "Mode Ani"
French singer Gabriel Tumbak has been bouncing around the Jewish music scene since 2014, releasing a number of covers and, earlier this year, collaborating with Israeli pop maestro Gad Elbaz on the song "Rise Again". Here, Tumbak and lyricist Miriam Israeli (Shwekey, Goldwag) provide a soulful piano ballad take on the morning prayer. If you want to hear Tumbak on a more upbeat number, check out "Rise Again" or the funkalicious "Keshem Sheani".