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2022 Grammy Awards: The Jewish nominees

By Shira Hanau 

(JTA) — Some of the music industry’s most popular Jewish artists were included in the 2022 Grammy Award nominations unveiled on Tuesday, Nov. 30. The awards ceremony will take place Jan. 31 in Los Angeles. Here’s a roundup:

Doja Cat, a Black and Jewish pop star-rapper hybrid who has become one of the most listened-to artists in the world — Spotify lists her as the 7th-most-streamed musician on its platform as of Wednesday morning — racked up nominations in in seven categories, including Record of the Year, Album of the Year, Song of the Year, Best Pop Duo/Group Performance, Best Pop Vocal Album, Melodic Rap Performance and Rap Song. She has a Jewish mother and a non-Jewish South African father.

Jack Antonoff, a Jewish day school grad who wore a Star of David necklace to the MTV Music Awards in 2017, has become one of the most in-demand pop producers in the industry. He was nominated for Non-Classical Producer of the Year for his work in the past year with Taylor Swift, Lana Del Ray, Lorde and others.

Drake, a Canadian Jewish rapper, winner of four past Grammys (in addition to a record-breaking 29 Billboard Music Awards), was nominated for Best Rap Performance for his hit “Way 2 Sexy” and Best Rap Album of the year for his latest LP, “Certified Lover Boy.” Despite having once participated in a mock re-staging of his bar mitzvah on “Saturday Night Live,” he has been guarded in recent years in talking about his Jewish identity.

Stephen Schwartz, the legendary musical theater writer, was nominated for Best Musical Theater Album for “Stephen Schwartz’s Snapshots,” a scrapbook musical including songs from a range of his musicals, including “Wicked,” “Pippin” and “Godspell.”

Aaron Dessner, part of the indie rock band The National, was included in Taylor Swift’s nomination in the Album of the Year category for the album “Evermore,” which he helped write, along with Antonoff. (The pair did the same with Swift’s “Folklore” album last year.) Dessner’s brother Bryce, who is also in The National and was also included in the nomination for helping in the recording process, wrote a classical music piece in 2013 partially inspired by their Jewish grandmother’s heritage and immigration to the United State.

Matt Haimovitz, an Israeli cellist, was co-nominated for his work on an album up for Best Classical Solo Voice Album. He was also nominated last year in the classical compendium category.

 

Cartman converts to Judaism on ‘South Park,’ after decades of tormenting Jews

By Andrew Lapin

(JTA) — One of television’s most notorious cartoon antisemites is now an Orthodox rabbi. 

Eric Cartman, the egomaniacal, hate speech-spouting grade schooler on Comedy Central’s long-running adult animated series “South Park,” has had a change of heart in a new hour-long special of the show, which is set 40 years in the future.

In “South Park: Post COVID,” which debuted on Thanksgiving on the Paramount Plus streaming service, Cartman has converted to Judaism, leads a congregation in Colorado Springs, wears a tallit wherever he goes, and has a Jewish wife named “Yentl” and three children: “Moishe,” “Menorah” and “Hakham.” His trademark blue hat now serves as a kippah.

Is Cartman’s conversion for real, or some elaborate scheme directed at his old nemesis, Kyle Broflovski? We won’t know for sure what’s going on with him until the story arc continues sometime this month But his sudden devotion to the Torah is enough of a shocker to send Kyle, the show’s long-suffering Jewish protagonist, into fits of rage, as he becomes convinced his ex-friend’s new life is just a mean-spirited ruse.

The Cartman-Kyle storyline is only the B-plot of the new special — the rest involves the old schoolyard gang reuniting to try to uncover long-buried secrets of the COVID pandemic — but “South Park” has long used the dynamic between the two as politically incorrect comic fodder, dating back to the show’s debut in 1997. Series co-creators Matt Stone (who is Jewish, and voices Kyle) and Trey Parker (who voices Cartman) have built many episodes around Jewish themes, frequently making note of Cartman’s antisemitism — usually as a way to mock actual antisemites. 

The pint-sized sociopath has previously impersonated Hitler in an attempt to get “Passion of the Christ” fans to re-enact the Holocaust; faked having Tourette Syndrome in order to spout antisemitic speech in public; and tried to force Kyle to hand over his “Jew Gold”. He’s even jokingly converted to Judaism before, in a 2012 Passover special.

But this time, Cartman actually seems serious about his faith — he even yells out Talmudic lessons while in the bedroom with his wife. Kyle, meanwhile, seems to have lapsed from his own beliefs in the intervening decades, noting at one point, “It’s been a long time since I’ve prayed.” So maybe seeing his longtime frenemy embrace the faith he once ridiculed could open up something in Kyle. But if so, that may take some more healing. When circumstances compel Kyle to host Cartman’s family, he instead tries to kick them out. One of Cartman’s kids exclaims, “This is just like when our people were exiled from the Holy Land!”

Jewish fans of “South Park” are used to Cartman’s shenanigans: Odds are, there’s something funny going on here. We won’t know for sure what’s up with him until the next made-for-streaming film, which is due next month.

“South Park: Post COVID” is now streaming on Paramount Plus.

 

Black Eyed Peas lead singer will.i.am says being in Israel is ‘like being with mishpocha’

By Shira Hanau

(JTA) — Black Eyed Peas frontman will.i.am feels at home in Israel — so much so that he used a Yiddish word to describe the feeling he gets in the country.

While on a visit to Israel to perform with his group, will.i.am, born William James Adams, Jr., said Monday that he would not boycott the country and added that being in Israel is like being among family — or “mishpocha.”

Rapper will.i.am speaks at the IMPROVATE International Innovation and Investment Forum in Jerusalem, Nov. 29, 2021. (Sivan Farag)

“I always wanted to come to Israel growing up in Los Angeles, a lot of my friends are Israelis,” said will.i.am, who is not Jewish. “My grandma came here. When she visited, she would say, ‘I’m going to the holy land.’ She came with her church. It was always a place of aspiration and wonder and when I first came, I brought my grandma…I always love coming here. It’s like mishpocha.”

The rapper made his remarks at the IMPROVATE technology conference in the Orient Hotel in Jerusalem. This was not the first time the Black Eyed Peas have performed in Israel, where they put on concerts in 2006 and 2007.

Speaking at the conference, will.i.am explained how one of his childhood friends inspired him to throw some other Hebrew words into one of the band’s most popular songs, “I Gotta Feeling.” In that song, will.i.am famously shouts out “mazel tov” and another band member responds with “l’chaim.”

“I wanted to make Benjamin‘s dad proud,” the rapper said of his childhood friend. “So I said, ‘Mazel tov,’ ‘L’chaim’ and he was like, ‘Will, I always knew you are mishpocha. So to me, when I say mishpocha, I mean that dearly. This place is magical to me, for my grandma wanted to come here, and I can’t let politics get in the way of where my heart is going.”

Will.i.am also worked the word “mishpocha” into a music video for a song the Black Eyed Peas made with the Israeli pop duo Static and Ben El in 2020.

“What’s up, mishpocha?” he asks at the beginning of the music video.

Main Photo: Drake is nominated for a Grammy for Best Rap Performance.

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