Posts Tagged ‘Chanukah’

Maccabeats’ “Candlelight” was Tremendous, but WHY?

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A review of Maccabeats “Candlelight” (YouTube) Based on Mike Tompkins’ a cappella version of Taio Cruz’s “Dynamite.” Video created by Uri Westrich. Production Assistant – Rivie Shalev

So what was it that inspired 3.5 million YouTube views of the Maccabeats’ “Candlelight” video in the last 3 weeks?

What made the video so viral?

I think there are a number of factors at play here. First of all, Chanukah came well before Christmas this year, giving Chanukah a chance to shine before “O’ Holy Night.” I think this factor was just luck.

Second, the Maccabeats picked a great song. It’s catchy, has great rhythm, and is brimming with energy. It’s the kind of tune that just sticks in your head. (I mean, who hasn’t been singing, “I flip my latkes in the air sometimes,” since Chanukah ended on December 9th?) Also, Mike Thompkins’ YouTube version was an excellent a capella rendition of the song, and gave the Maccabeats the whole split-screen idea. This wasn’t luck. They were clever and picked a very good song.

But the calendar and a good song does not alone make a YouTube video great. What was it about that video that was so unique and entertaining?

If I had to sum it up in one word, I would have to say it was their personalities. They were cute, they were quirky, they were goofy, and they entertained while you listened to the music. They used costumes, pantomime, color, creative videography, and loads of humor. There was non-stop action, and it “went on and on….” until the song was over.

Kids loved it because between the sound and the visuals, it was constantly stimulating. They watched it 15 times in a row with their mouths wide open, and then asked to watch it again.

Adults loved it because it made Chanukah fun, something they wanted to be part of. It made Chanukah accessible, understandable, and upbeat. And, in its weirdness, it made Chanukah “normal.”

As a result of the video, people have blogged about it, made “candlelight” videos of their own, and invited the Maccabeats to sing in their city. More interestingly, it also inspired some people to identify more closely with Judaism, Jews and Israel. It has been a very positive PR story for the Jewish community—not to mention for Yeshiva University, which was kvelling at its annual Chanukah dinner.

The Maccabeats never thought it would spread beyond the religious Jewish community. And certainly they never expected the kind of big-time national press they received (CNN, CBS, etc). Even people in the business of making Jewish-content music for the masses did not predict this explosion. On November 30, just four days into the Maccabeats’ YouTube video, Matisyahu wrote on that,

“Jewish musicians might feel more inclined to make Hanukkah music if they knew that someone would actually want to listen to it. Until the holiday music market shows it can support Hanukkah songs, it’s highly unlikely that we will ever hear Jewish holiday music at the mall, or the gas station, or the DMV, or on every radio station that Santa currently rules…it would take a real Hanukkah miracle.”

I guess that miracle happened for the Maccabeats.

Matisyahu’s own Chanukah song, ironically called “Miracle,” has only half a million views so far on YouTube. Also ironically, he had been invited to perform at Yeshiva University’s annual Chanukah concert, where the Maccabeats and their “Candlelight” were the opening act. They all performed to a packed house with great success, but I can’t help wondering if Matisyahu was concerned that the Maccabeats were winning the YouTube wars.

To complicate their relationship, the Maccabeats were probably thrilled to meet Matisyahu, as he was the inspiration for the “One Day” video they did back in March.

This whole episode has taught us a few new things:

  1. People do want to listen to Chanukah music on the radio.
  2. You don’t need the self-deprecating humor of Adam Sandler to make it happen.
  3. Jewish-content music for the masses might actually work for others besides Matisyahu.
  4. The new Jewish music competition is on YouTube and iTunes, not in CD sales.
  5. YouTube has tremendous power, and along with other social media venues, will continue to impact the Jewish community in a big way. This is just the beginning.
  6. We’re going to see more from this band. Hopefully they can match (or almost match) this success.
  7. You can be clean-cut, religious, sing a capella—and still be really cool.

The 3.5 million views are probably the same 2 million people, but we admit, we too keep watching it over and over again. Chanukah is long gone, but we’re still sayin’ “ayyo, spin the dreidel….”

Why do you think the Maccabeats’ video went viral?

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