The Maccabeats: So Much More Than Just Latkes
One would be hard pressed to find a Jew who hasn’t heard of the Maccabeats. Their influence reaches far and wide and their music has touched hundreds of thousands of people. I would be lying if I said I didn’t have a signed “I Flip My Latkes In the Air Sometimes” T-shirt tucked away.
On nights when I’m feeling a bit nostalgic, I recall the afternoon I spent hours standing in line waiting to meet my music icons. The first concert I ever went to was Matisyahu. It was different and loud and probably too sketchy for a ten year old. However, the night I heard the Maccabeats perform live for the first time, I was hit by a wave of wholesomeness. The Maccabeats knew what they stood for and they embodied it perfectly. So what is it that makes them so relatable and universal? Where did the Maccabeats begin and where are they now? What is the secret to their appeal?
The day after Candlelight was uploaded to Youtube in 2010, the world seemed to explode with latkes and Jewish pride. That next day at school my classmates and I played the video over and over again, reenacting their moves and memorizing their lyrics. There was something inherently likeable about the clean shaven and preppy heads popping out from every corner of the screen. As an impressionable middle schooler, the Maccabeats Jewish pride and enthusiasm always stuck with me. To this day, the Maccabeats taught me that you never have to skimp on your morals or beliefs in order to make it big. To me, that video was much more than an original rendition of “Dynamite;” it was a validation that religion and success aren’t mutually exclusive terms.
Though the faces of the Maccabeats members may have changed from time to time, their music remains as powerful as it was in their first video. While many Jewish artists shy away from unconventional tunes, the Maccabeats thrive in their singularity. With mashups ranging from “Yesh Tikvah” with Benny Friedman to variations on the popular “Brave” by Sara Bareilles, the Maccabeats know just how to spice up an album. However, one of the secrets to their fame is the fact that, while they love to change things up in their music, they never alter their priorities. They sing, they dance, and they reform the far too well-established Jewish stereotype with each new song and music video.
Though we are blessed with countless talented Jewish musicians, the Maccabeats bring something different to the table. Their relatability, stage presence, and free-flowing genre allow them to stand out from the crowd. I am proud to say that they were and continue to be an inspiration to me and a reminder that being religious is never an excuse to hold yourself back.
So what is the secret to their appeal? It’s all in the name-Maccabeats. They represent the notion that we should always be proud to stand up for what we believe in, no matter how small we may seem. The Maccabeats are Jews first and musicians second, and they always make sure to keep those two in the right order. This Chanukah, the Maccabeats rediscovered their roots in a video reminiscent of their first. As they sang of the ups and downs that many young artists face, past performances and clips rolled in the background. For fans who have been with the group from the beginning, it was a much needed reminder that while the road ahead is sure to be filled with fame and change, some things are destined to remain the same.