Thursday, December 25, 2008

Hanukkah Day 3: Battle of Driedel Kitsch - Gay Cowboys vs Ersatz Hassids

So I love showcasing diversity in Jewish music and today will be hard to beat. I've got a couple of completely kitschy takes on "I Have A little Driedel". Let me say first that I love good kitsch as much as anyone, but am often the first to thumb my nose at it. Why? Because most of it is done as a cheap shot at the source materiel and doesn't add anything funny of its own. Here's a great comparison.

First up, Captain Smartypants, a Seattle Men's Chorus Ensemble. Their "Brokeback Driedel" has been making the rounds lately. I really enjoy this version, not only because I have a minor obsession with Jewish cowboys, but because it's a great example of kitsch done right. They use their performance of the song to smirk at themselves, at the same time presenting and parodying the notion of gay cowboys (and Jewish gay cowboys at that). And, of course, they sing wonderfully.

Captain Smartypants sings "BrokeBack Dreidel"

Here's my counterpoint, Erran Baron Cohen's TERRIBLE version of Driedel from his album Songs in the Key of Hanukkah*. Musically, it's adequate if uninspired. The rock singer takes a deadpan serious take on the lyrics while dancing around in ersatz Hassid garb. Right. Are we really supposed to believe that this guy is that jazzed about playing Driedel? C'mon. If we're supposed to believe it, show us why? And why are we making fun of Hassid's here? Because they dress funny? Because they like driedels? Is that the best you can do? Seriously, this is hand-stitched flea market toilet seat cover with US flags on it level of bad kitsch. If you want to satirize Chassidus, go for it. But show some knowledge and style. (For a great example of it done right, see "I want to be a Rebbe"). Bleah.

Songs In The Key of Hanukkah - Dreidel

Bad kitsch. Bad. No biscuit.

*To be fair, I should say that Driedel is probably the worst song on Songs in the Key of Hanukkah. (I have no idea why they chose it as the first single / video). While it's not a brilliant album, it has a number of bright spots. For example, I love "My Hanukkah (Keep the Fire Alive)" and included it in my Hanukkah podcast. For a great example of how a contemporary pop band can take on a Hanukkah chestnut an without being kitschy check out the Hip Hop Hoodios version of Ocho Kandelikas. Ok. The bagle bra was kischy. But other than that.....

Hat tip to YouTube user yanky6130 for posting "I Want to be a Rebbe."

No comments: