When a friend with “global” taste in music sent me a link to a remix called “Reckoning Song (One Day)” last winter, I was immediately intrigued. The woman singing had such an unusual bluesy voice, and the upbeat yet haunting melody paired with longingly poetic lyrics hooked me. Who was this mystery chanteuse, I wondered?
Turns out the song was a few years old, and the unique, reverberating and heart-wrenching wail belonged to an Israeli singer a man named Asaf Avidan. That’s right, I said a man, baby.
Avidan, 34, sounds like the musical love child of Billie Holiday and Bob Dylan, or maybe Janis Joplin meets Robert Plant, or even Amy Winehouse and Tom Waits. Regardless, he’s a force to be reckoned with – on YouTube and onstage. Avidan is the former lead singer of Asaf Avidan & the Mojos, who’ve already achieved platinum sales across Europe. Meanwhile, the (unauthorized) remix of “Reckoning Day” by Berlin DJ Wankelmut helped the single hit No. 1 in fourteen countries. It now has over 150 million video views, and is a decent – if not entirely accurate – introduction to Avidan’s artistry.
The singer, who went solo in 2012 with an album called Different Pulses, has just released his latest effort, Gold Shadow, to worldwide acclaim. Avidan is currently touring the U.S. and beyond. I recently caught his N.Y.C. show at Irving Plaza, where the packed audience marveled at the very talented singer-songwriter and sexy showman. Here are five things to know about this international sensation.
On his voice getting mistaken for a woman’s: He doesn’t care.
“It’s a huge compliment,” Avidan tells The Hollywood Reporter. “I don’t get bothered if they think it’s a black woman, as long as the song moves them.”
On disliking "his biggest hit": It’s not his thing.
“Well, I still dislike it artistically. It’s not my cup of tea,” Avidan told SFGate.com. “To me, it was never a song. It was a Frankenstein version of what I did. Somebody took these things that I very precisely put out in the world and watered it down to a place where you keep one of the sentences of the song and repeat it over and over.”
On love: He writes and sings about relationships … and breakups.
During his live show, Avidan joked about his many “very depressing songs.” Indeed, the first single “Over My Head” is about his current girlfriend. “It was the night when I put my old demons to sleep, and decided to choose life,” he writes. “‘Till this day I’m amazed that she had the patience for my stupidity, and this is my way to say thank you … thank you for leaving the door open.”
On having a front man aura: It’s not all about him.“What I do is very intimate and mysterious and egotistical – I do it for my own reasons. But you’re making this more than just a little guy crying his little heart out. You’re taking it with you and molding it into your own experiences and I love that,” he tells audiences.
On his new album Gold Shadow: Have a listen to the single "Over My Head" below. Warning – Some NSFW language.
Avidan plays San Francisco on Feb. 18 and 19, and Los Angeles on Feb. 22. See more tour dates here.