Every once in a while an artist arrives who makes you reevaluate your musical choices, including genres you tend to avoid. Israeli artist Noga Erez is one of them. She is not the typical producer and singer-songwriter who is trying to create a dance music hit à la The Chainsmokers, Skrillex, or Calvin Harris. Nor is she’s imitating the moody electro-pop of London Grammar, CHVRCHES, or Vérité. Instead, she’s blazing her own trail with her creative, ambitious style that is dark and edgy yet tantalizingly hypnotic. She’s M.I.A., Phantogram, BANKS, and The Weeknd mixed into a single creative force. All this is revealed on her remarkable debut album, Off The Radar.
The album is more than just electronic-dance; it is also a massive political and social statement. The lead track, “Dance While You Shoot,” demonstrates her brilliance. Beneath the intense beats, Erez sets her aim at those in positions of authority and criticizes them for their power-hungry ways. It is a gritty number that will have bodies pulsating on the dance floor while emboldening a young generation to act. The opening track, “Balkada,” adopts a haunting approach, but this time she asks her peers if they’re willing to resist or be suppressed.
You try to tame them and make them all yours
But now their stomach is craving for some more
Your body is sucked in this bottomless hole
The beast is sated but not for very long.
The industrial-driven “Toy” and the hallucinating “Global Fear” take the themes of control and oppression even further. On the former, Erez takes on the role of a tyrant’s son whose sole desire is to feed on the oppressed. The latter is an attack on those who have allowed fear to divide us and dictate how we are governed. It is a critique of the politics practiced in the Middle East and increasingly across Europe and North America.
On “Noisy”, Erez delivers the most introspective and arguably the strongest lyrical song on the album. This percussion driven, mind-bending song is a tantalizing affair made for the secretive clubs of Berlin, Amsterdam, and Paris; its message is similarly dizzying and mesmerizing. She questions whether she has done enough or if she, too, has imprisoned herself. The lyrics are sensational, and they at times have a militaristic vibe, potentially reflecting on her own mandatory two-year service.
I thought I did all the dids
Filled in the paperwork, sir
Talking about these walls again
First you hate ’em, then get used
Now I can’t live without ’em, sir
But I’ve opened the doors
Don’t under look my halfway home
Check out the sofa, sir, sir
Check out the window, sir.
The creepy yet enchanting “Worth None” – which features some great production work – focuses on the apathetic people who accept the status quo and its promises of safety, shelter, and predictability. Through a groovy, lo-fi funk vibe, “Off The Radar” examines the concept of self-worth within the broader society. “Hear me no one, sees me no one. I’m off the radar”, Erez repeats as if we have all become just minions within the larger machine.
The industrial-influenced “Pity” continues to focus on the theme of power (or in this case the powerlessness) that many women experience. Despite its captivating, groovy approach, the song is not meant to be a dance floor hit. Instead, the song concerns the broadcasting of a woman’s rape on social media. Erez’s lyrics are biting, putting us inside the helpless body and mind of the victim. The entire song, in particular the following passage, is remarkable songwriting.
So, they’re waiting for me to bend
Think I would spend most of my days searching for their eyes
Dirty talking, choking on guilt
Satin smoky sheets, my grip slipping
No, no, no, oh
Sharks with guns and lots of other toys
Aiming for the forehead
Take the shoot, no one’s watching
I think I’ve gone bad, bad.
For all the creative and refreshing sounds on Off The Radar, Noga Erez’s songwriting is the true star. There is a poetic, imaginative, yet personal nature to her style. Every phrase and stanza challenge the listener emotionally, intellectually, or both, resulting in the impacts of the songs lasting hours after they’ve been heard. Erez has that rare gift of being a musical innovator and compelling, poignant lyricist. She is the complete package, and this star in the making has delivered a remarkable debut album.
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