The second studio effort by Jewish reggae sensation Matisyahu, Youth is a departure from his previous works that some fans may not appreciate.
What the 26-year-old star lacks in energy, he easily makes up in a powerful set of messages. In Shake of the Dust.Arise and Live at Stubbs Matisyahu clearly focuses on a reggae/hip-hop blend. With Youth, he maintains his signature sound, but also includes pop sounds in some cases to convey his vision of the world.
The title song, “Youth,” is a wake-up call to action for young people, Matisyahu’s chief fan base. Matisyahu sheds his Hasidic dress for part of the music video, trading his hat and coat for a track suit-with his yarmulke under the hood, of course. During other parts, he performs in a manner reminiscent of Live at Stubbs, his most popular album, even crowd surfing like in “King Without a Crown.”
Matisyahu tells his young fans throughout the course of the song, “Slam your fist on the table and make your demands,” adding that they have “the freedom to choose” and that they better make the right move. Toward the end, he hypnotically asserts, “Youth is the engine of the world,” in emphasizing the vital role of young people in shaping the future.
The message of “Youth” works in accordance with the album’s larger themes of hope and optimism, evident in songs such as “WP” and “What I’m Fighting For.” More specifically, the latter of talks of fighting for unity and life in a soft melodic way, backed up with an acoustic guitar.
Pop sounds infiltrate the hip-hop beat of “Time of Your Song” as he intersperses a very melodious chorus with a beat box at the end. He does this poignantly, but may disappoint some of his hardcore reggae followers.
As is with all of his work, Matisyahu’s songs are a product of his deep faith and spiritually, as well as his love of Israel, evinced by the yearning in “Jerusalem.”
On Saturday night, Matisyahu performed to a sold-out crowd on the grounds of the Pompano Beach Amphitheatre. This move came after almost 8,000 tickets were sold, dwarfing the 2,600 seat capacity of the main venue.
After the opening act, Balkan Beat Box, the crowd waited in anticipation of the man they came to see. As soon as his signature black hat came into view, the crowd erupted. The black-clad figure then made his way to center stage.
To the unsuspecting attendee or listener, his traditional Hasidic dress, long beard and stage antics may make him seem like a gimmick. Upon listening closely to his lyrics and sensing the emotion in his songs, just the opposite is evident.
Moreover, seeing him on-stage is uniquely different from simply listening to the studio albums, since one can see how into his music and the message he is. In spite of the sensation and thrill of seeing him live, he sounds basically the same as on Live at Stubbs.
Greg Linch can be contacted at firstname.lastname@example.org.