Beyond one single, Jewish sister pop group Haim didn’t release any new music this year. Ordinarily, that would be a cause of serious emotional distress for Team Hey Alma, and yet this year in Jewish music was so spectacular we didn’t even mind. At the Grammys, Jack Antonoff was recognized as producer of the year; King Princess released their long-awaited sophomore album “Hold On Baby” and actor Ben Barnes released his first EP “Songs for You.”Newer artists Banshee and Zusha dazzled us with Jewish music in unexpected genres – metal and funk-soul, respectively. And the first mixtape of Mac Miller, may his memory be a blessing, was rereleased. Through it all, there were standouts that represent a diverse swath of Jewish musical artistry – including a certain former “Glee” actress… Here are the Almas for the best Jewish music of 5782:
Breakout Jewish Artist
In 2019, at the age of 13, Israeli-Panamanian singer Yael Danon won “Israel’s Got Talent.” Now, the Jewish artist has released three singles, “Fomo,” “Teddy Bears” and “Don’t Miss You At All” in anticipation of her first-ever EP, entitled “Diary Girl.” The seven-song, Olivia Rodrigo-esque EP is an energetic, no-skip collection of Yael’s innermost thoughts. In short, “Diary Girl” maintains a fun balance between sweet and tart, all in Yael’s powerful voice. Additionally, Yael’s transnational Jewish identity helped shape the forthcoming EP. “I have these mini identity crises,” Yael told Hey Alma. “I was born in Panama, but my parents are Israeli and I go to an American school. And when I speak Spanish, I have a slight accent, and the same with English and Hebrew, too. It can be confusing, because it’s like where am I actually from?… I do feel very connected to both my homes, Panama and Israel.” Surely the best is yet to come for this talented Jewish singer!
The Best Jewish Album
“Oras Dezaoradas,” a Ladino phrase which means “Hours Without Hours,” is Jewish musician Lily Henley’s ode to the Ladino language and Sephardic culture. Comprising 10 tracks, three of which are fully original songs, the album sets the texts of old Sephardic love ballads and medieval poems to new melodies composed by Henley. Save a few English verses, the album, which Lily wrote between 2018 and 2019, is entirely in Ladino. Serving as both an exploration of Lily’s own outsider Jewish identity and as euphonic time travel, “Oras Dezaoradas” connects the listener with the history of Sephardic diaspora through Henley’s skilled artistry. At the same time, Lily also propels the genre forward, bringing traditional Sephardic songs and Ladino poems from the archive into the fresh air and opening them up to new creative possibilities.
The Best Jewish Single
In the biggest Hanukkah miracle since the rededication of the Second Temple, 2010s dance-pop band Cobra Starship reunited this year to release the single “Party With Jews.” The song successfully retains all the light-heartedness and dance-ability of the group’s discography while also featuring relatable lyrics like “When Christmastime’s all around us / And Santa won’t visit me. / No, I don’t let it get me down, love. / I jam with sons of Abraham, don’t need no Christmas tree. / I want to party with Jews.” In an Instagram post, Jewish frontman of Cobra Starship Gabe Saporta explained his motivation for creating the song, saying, “I wanted to make a Hanukkah classic like Adam Sandler did, but I wanted one that could bump in the clubs… or at bar mitzvahs.” He added, “Also I wanted to highlight one of the best parts of Jewish culture: raging.” L’chaim to that!
The Best Jewish Music Video
At nearly 300,000 views on YouTube, this was the bop we didn’t know we needed in 5782. Riffing off of Adam Sandler’s 1995 “Saturday Night Live” breakout hit, “The Chanukah Song,” Jewish hip-hop artists Kosha Dillz and Nissim Black dropped the “The Hanukkah Song 2.0” music video right before the holiday began. Their masterpiece incorporated lines like, “Aw man, yes, Hanukkah / The flow is so iconikah” while simultaneously “tack[ling] weightier topics, including the miracles at the heart of the holiday and the role of God in protecting the Jewish people over time,” writes Philissa Cramer. Watching Nissim and Kosha Dillz surround themselves with various menorahs, joyfully mingle with randos on the NYC street and dance on the steps of Penn Station brought us so much Jewy joy. As Michelle S. from Jerusalem wrote in the YouTube comments, “Kosha Dillz and Nissim!!!!! B”H that we have you with us.” We couldn’t have said it better ourselves, Michelle.
The Best Performance
Dianna Agron stan Shoshana Gottlieb had the good fortune to attend Dianna Agron’s musical residency at the Café Carlyle in NYC, and she was forever changed by the experience. According to Shoshana, Diana:
- sang in French
- Called her mom out for crying
- made a playlist of the songs she performed on Spotify because of course she did
- sang an Eartha Kitt song after the audience demanded two encores
- is wonderful.