Grading the Charts … in LEBANON!
1. Joseph Attieh, “Kelma Bchoufak”
Joseph Attieh is the winner of the third season of Star Academy Arab World, which airs on Lebanon’s popular TV station LBC. Since winning the show, Attieh has released an album and joined a group of other Star Academy graduates to act on an LBC sitcom called Jeeran, a Friends clone about a group of men and women living in an apartment building. Here he belts a ballad over piano and strings to show off his voice, which is warm and conversational with an undercoat of pain.
Best YouTube Comment: “big love from moroccan to the hottest man of lebanon” — jaslineflourise
2. Asala, “Shakhsiya 3anida”
Assala Nasri is a Syrian pop-star diva on the level of Celine Dion. A former child star, she started out performing religious and patriotic songs, and recorded the theme song for a cartoon called Hekayat Alamiyah. I watched some Hekayat Alamiyah cartoons, and the animal drawings reminded me of Adventure Time. Asala’s first album came out in 1991 and made her a star with operatic tarab hits like “Ya Sabra Yana.” Here she glides languorously over a tropical beat.
Best YouTube Comment: “to7faaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaa” — totasamy
3. Sarya Al Sawas, “El Zir”
Sarya Al Sawas is a singer from Syria, and this is her “Call Me Maybe.” Boats ‘n’ bass!
Best YouTube Comment: “Masquerades” — Sweet2sweetablef
4. Wael Kfoury, “Saf7a w Taweita”
This is Lebanese romance singer Wael Kfoury’s comeback album. Kfoury made his name with a series of platinum hits and a Pepsi deal in the early 2000s. While he has grown a manly beard and put his name in the Godfather font so we know he means business, Kfoury’s voice remains boyish even as it cracks. He is now signed to Rotana Records, the music-label branch of the huge Saudi Arabian media empire. Kfoury is known as a master of the mawwal style of singing, which involves colloquialisms and improvisational poetry.
Best YouTube Comment: “Very very good” — MrAhmedrashad
5. Nahwa, “Tergos 3ala Jrouhi”
Nahwa is a Lebanese singer who does throwback music, in that it is pointedly traditional. The cover for her 2012 album, Ma Gany Noam, shows her dressed up, retro-style. She is the latest protégé of Lebanese composer Tarek Abou Jaoudeh, and there are rumors that she underwent multiple plastic surgeries to achieve “a new look” before her debut. “Tergos 3ala Jrouhi” uses a pulsing daf drum-driven beat to show off Nahwa’s throaty voice.
Best YouTube Comment: “sweet dessert” — mahmoudsultan
6. Georges Al Rassi, “Btemro2 Tetghandar”
Georges Al Rassi is a crooner who came up on the Lebanese nightclub circuit, performing at such famous clubs as “Options,” “La Fortuna,” and “Al Atlal.” He teamed up with composer Samir Copty for several hit songs, became a regular on the worldwide festival circuit, and had a residency at a Dubai five-star hotel. I love the intro and the occasional melodic resemblance to “Twinkle Twinkle Little Star,” having a big year ever since Nicki Minaj sampled it in “Starships.”
Best YouTube Comment: “Hhihihi he is cute ;)” — a7lalbneniye93
7. Ziad Saleh, “Wala Ouwwi”
Ziad Saleh is a Jordanian singer who sings in a number of genres. This song sounds perfect for a Miami Vice episode and therefore also anything else. The synth solo rules, and is that a sampled crowd sound at 2:50? Boss.
Best YouTube Comment: “Woooooow El3aDy” — AliAwawdi
8. Mohammad Iskandar, “Wadda3 El 3ouzobiyeh”
Lebanese singer Mohammad Iskandar was banned from Canada for his song “Dodd el ‘Enf,” which despite the title’s translation being “Against Violence” actually had lyrics advocating violence against homosexuals and women. Yikes.
Best YouTube Comment: “THE BEST SONG!!!!!!” — naibla1996
9. Ghada Ragab, “Awey Awey”
Egyptian singer Ghada Ragab plays a nerdily sexy grade school teacher in this catchy, squirmy, vaguely orgasmic song.
Best YouTube Comment: “so0o nice!” — mahmoudanwar
10. Nesma Mahgoub, “El Helo Malo”
Nesma Mahgoub won the eighth season of Star Academy Arab World and was the second Egyptian to win, singing mostly Western songs such as ABBA’s “The Winner Takes It All.” She plays the piano and has her own metal band in Cairo named Origin, not to be confused with the technical death metal band Origin that hails from Topeka, Kansas. I feel like I could vogue to this.
Best YouTube Comment: “sound wonderful people” — Nesmathebest