Jewish Journal

Most Jewish Grammy Award: Vampire Weekend for best alternative music album

by Jana Banin, JTA

January 27, 2014 | 2:11 pm

Ezra Koenig, lead singer of Vampire Weekend. Credit: Christian Bertrand/Shutterstock.com

If you tuned into the 56th annual Grammy Awards on Sunday, you know there wasn’t much Jewish representation going on. And no, we can’t count Lorde, no matter how many Jewish “Royals” parodies there are out there.

There was, however, Vampire Weekend’s “Modern Vampires of the City,” which took the trophy for Best Alternative Music Album. From Jewish collaborators to overt (and not as overt) spiritual and political lyrics, it definitely was the Tribiest award of the evening. The proof is in the list.

1. First and foremost, Vampire Weekend is fronted by Jewish musician Ezra Koenig, originally of the Upper West Side.

2. “Modern Vampires of the City” was produced by Ariel Rechtshaid, son of Israeli immigrants and the man behind Jewish sister trio Haim.

3. In the song “Ya Hey,” which sounds a lot like “Yahweh,” Koenig appears to be singing about God. Slate definitely thought so, too, singling out these lyrics: “Through the fire through the flames/You won’t even say your name/Only ‘I am that I am,’” which, Slate’s Forrest Wickman suggests, “seems to pun on that enigmatic Hebrew name for God (of which “I am that I am” is a translation).”

4. Then there’s “Finger Back,” which appears to address Israeli-Palestinian relations. Or at the very least, with lines like, “See you next year in Jerusalem/you know, the one at 103rd and Broadway/cause this Orthodox girl fell in love with the guy at the falafel shop, and why not?/ Should she have averted her eyes and just stared at the laminated poster of the Dome of the Rock?” it’s some sort of Middle Eastern Romeo and Juliet story.

5. The album contains many more lyrics that might just have spiritual/biblical links. For an incredibly thorough analysis, plus details on Koenig’s Jewish background straight from his own mom, check out Tablet.

Don’t forget to listen while you read.


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