Dana International – Hakol Ze Letova (2007)

Dana International’s latest album, Hakol Ze Letova, was my second favorite album of 2007 (Siobhan Donaghy’s Ghosts being my #1 fave). I ranked it above Kylie’s X, people. You know Hakol Ze Letova must be fab!

hzlcoverHakol Ze Letova is equal parts joyous celebration and bittersweet contemplation – all set to flawless dance productions. Now when you think of Dana International, “bittersweet contemplation” is probably not what comes to mind. You’d be forgiven if you couldn’t quite believe that Dana’s song themes could go deeper than, say, the lyrical depths plumbed (and banana-ed… and potato-ed…) in “Cinque Milla.” But, you’d be wrong.

untitledDana’s discography boasts quite a few songs that are tinged with a bit of sadness. Even her first album (Danna International) featured a cover of Queen’s “The Show Must Go On,” a track not exactly bursting with happiness. Subsequent albums had tracks (in particular, “Ani Lo Yechola Biladecha,” “If You Don’t Love Me The Way I Am,” “Hargasha Tova,” and “Ad Hayom,”) that showed a more vulnerable side of this glamorous diva.

Hakol Ze Letova is lyrically Dana’s most personal album to date (she even wrote the lyrics to several of the tracks) and musically one of her best – quite possibly the best. The lyrical themes seem to be divided into three categories: fun lyrics that hearken back to the flamboyant, carefree singles of her early days (“Love Boy,” “Memagnet,” and “Seret Hodi”); lyrics about how life and love can be sad but ultimately things will be OK (“Hakol Ze Letova,” ” Yom Huledet,” “Yalla Balagan,” “At Muchana,” “Eifo Halev?” and “Yom Aher”); and lyrics about life and love just being sad (“Bereshit,” “Lo Ma’amina,” and “Behoravot ha’ahava”). The music suits the themes beautifully, from the exuberant Bollywood beats of “Seret Hodi” to the wistful, yearning strings on “Behoravot ha’ahava.” Absolutely flawless production!

The album is kicked off in style by lead single “Hakol Ze Letova,” a dreamy trance track with killer beats, swooping synths, and a great sentiment – “hakol ze letova” (“it’s all for the best”). The storming tempo of the first track is slowed just a tiny bit with “Yom Huledet,” a gorgeously melancholy dance song about birthdays marking the passing of time. The beats keep rolling along in “Bereshit” (“Genesis”), where Dana sings about having a grand old time in the Garden of Eden – until she gets kicked out. It’s actually a rather depressing tale! But “Bereshit” has a chorus that’s irresistible, so it’s all good.

The tribal-influenced “Lo Ma’amina” was written by Dana and, like “Hakol Ze Letova,” is a bit of a “message” song about believing in yourself. “Yalla Balagan” has a spirited reggae vibe that you’ll find yourself humming along to! Idan Yaniv, a popular Israeli singer, guests on “Seret Hodi,” a brilliantly catchy his-and-hers tune about how we’re all living in a Bollywood movie!

1_972693605555The striking synths that open Dana’s record-breaking hit “Love Boy” let you know that you’re in for a treat! This fab disco-inspired track is so much fun and a true highlight of the album. We go from fun to fierce with the next track, “At Muchana.” Its grinding guitars and driving rock beat underscore Dana’s aggressive vocal performance as she sings about how “they” (the media?) just want to see her fail. Those meanies!

“Eifo Halev?” brings us back to the dance floor with its yearning cry of “eifo halev?” (“where is my heart?”). It’s another slightly melancholy yet energetic track and is one of my favorites on the album. The hyperactive “Memagnet,” however, is not. It’s OK, but a bit too average (and kind of annoying) for this superb album.

Things pick right back up, though, with the piano-based ballad, “Yom Aher.” It’s a lovely little song with delicate production. The final track, “Behoravot ha’ahava,” is also a ballad and is just beautiful. Atmospheric and despondent, the song is a haunting close to Hakol Ze Letova. (There are two bonus remixes, but they aren’t really a proper part of the album, are they?)

Give the album a try – you will not be disappointed!

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Random tunes!

Here are a few tracks that I’m loving at the moment!

  • I’ve always liked Rihanna’s voice but have never actually kept up with her singles. I’ve certainly missed out! Her latest single, ‘Don’t Stop The Music’, is a deep, dark, dancefloor-ready tune. Absolutely infectious!
  • Dana International contributed a song (‘In The Lowest Place of Tel Aviv’) to a project in Israel and she sounds fantastic! It’s an almost mournful dance track and is guaranteed to get stuck in your head.
  • Teyana Taylor is a new and welcome addition to the music world with her cheeky and ultra-catchy ‘Google Me’ single!
  • I am simply in love with ‘Mercy’ by Duffy! It’s a fresh take on old-school sounds.
  • And finally, Estelle has a great single out that’s half-lounge and half-RnB. ‘American Boy’ has a great sound and Estelle’s voice is lovely.

Dana International – Yoter ve-Yoter (2001)

001300Dana International is probably most well-known for winning the 1998 Eurovision Song Contest (with ‘Diva’), but there’s much more to her than that. Her first album, Danna International, a refreshing blend of Middle Eastern motifs and house beats, was released in 1993 and kick-started a career that continues today – Dana has just released a new single (‘Hakol ze letova’) and a new album will follow in the summer.

Yoter ve-Yoter was released in 2001. Dana said of the album, “It’s the first time I’m truly proud of my work. I worked with a great team, and we invested so many hours of work in every second of it.” Those hours of work resulted in an album that took Dana’s music into the new millennium.

Her last album, Free, released internationally in 1999, did not do well in the charts and was considered a flop. Although Free has a few great songs, overall it felt uninspired and was a rather disappointing effort, especially coming after Dana’s Eurovision victory. Free featured Eurodance-infused tracks that seemed to lack the charm and cheek of her previous work. The album suggested that Dana’s music needed an update.

After releasing Free, Dana did not continue in the Eurodance direction, and instead began working with songwriter Dani Dotan and songwriter/producer Eli Avramov on a new album. Dana noted that this was her first time “working with a team that wrote everything for me.” That close teamwork produced a collection of songs with engaging lyrics that were much more personal than her earlier tracks, backed by fresh dance sounds with touches of electronica. This album also included two ballads, proving that Dana could tackle melancholy material just as well as dancefloor-ready tunes.

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The dance/electronica sound of Yoter ve-Yoter probably owes a bit to Madonna’s 2000 release Music, particularly the ballad ‘Shir,’ which takes after ‘I Deserve It’ with its wailing synths and acoustic guitar. The chopped-up production style heard in ‘Don’t Tell Me’ also finds its way into a few of Yoter ve-Yoter‘s tracks.

While Dana’s album certainly has roots in Music, the result is all Dana. She turns in a more mature, subtle vocal, years away from the shrieks and trills of ‘Sa’ida Sultana’. ‘Nizachti’ is a confident proclamation of victory, set to explosive synths and a hard dance beat. In contrast, my favorite track, ‘Hargasha Tova’, explains amidst downtempo beats and understated electronica elements that she doesn’t know if it’s love but she doesn’t really want to know, because he simply ‘makes me feel good.’

Other highlights of the album are ‘Shir,’ ‘La-qum ba-boqer,’ and ‘Ata hores’ – overall a very solid album, with only one track that I tend to skip (‘Ba-derekh el ha-chofesh’: over-long and with a chorus consisting of one phrase that Dana seems to be yelling!). Yoter ve-Yoter signaled the start of the second phase of Dana’s career: a move to a more mature, sophisticated style of dance music, with less overt cheekiness but with tongue still firmly in cheek.