Monday, May 14th, 2018

Netta – Toy

She won Eurovision, but can she win us over?


Jessica Doyle: True story: twenty years ago I got back to Grenoble, after a weekend away with the other kids in my study-abroad group, to find my (Orthodox, Lubbavitcher, Sephardic) host mom grinning. “Israel won Eurovision,” she explained. Last I heard at least one of her four kids had moved to Israel with their families; and I worry sometimes, in the face of no direct evidence whatsoever, that such a move had more to do with increasing anti-Semitism in France than with their personal circumstances. (Reading this, written in 2012, made me simultaneously nostalgic and sad. But there’s still a Chabad in Grenoble, yay!) And now there’s “Toy,” which is too gleefully, deliberately mindless to lend itself well to a Zionist analysis — and God bless, at a time when even poor Natalie frickin’ Portman can’t pass the Zionist-Enough test, that somebody decided Israel was confident enough to risk a Eurovision anthem that didn’t lend itself well to a Zionist analysis. And God bless all those European voters who were willing, at a time when the personal has to be political (and when Lorde’s camp apparently can’t tell the difference between Tel Aviv and Jerusalem), to forget about boycotting, divesting, and sanctioning for a moment and cluck along.

Jonathan Bogart: During the final ceremony, I thumbnailed Israel’s entry as “Meghan Trainor meets Reggie Watts,” an uncharitable but not inaccurate reading of Netta’s gleefully unhip beat-box looping grafted onto proudly full-figured but otherwise embarrassing empowerment anthems. (I should perhaps have added Beth Ditto for sheer vocal power.) But it was the Wonder Woman line that made me pause, because Israel’s soft-power propaganda campaign has had its clearest advocate over the last several years in Gal Gadot. Like Gadot, Netta served her mandatory term in the IDF; unlike her, she served exclusively in military bands. It would be foolish to reduce my response to Netta entirely to her nation’s crimes (if it came to that, few of us could escape judgment), but I can’t help wondering how complicit she, and all of us (I saw Wonder Woman opening weekend), are.

Leonel Manzanares de la Rosa: I love the fact that Netta’s “Toy” won Eurovision, yet I hate the idea of Israel hosting next year. The most brilliant track conquered Europe, rightfully, but I have a huge problem with my favorite music event of the year taking place in an apartheid state. That being said, there’s so much going on in the song, and it’s all so freakin’ exciting, I don’t know exactly where to begin. Okay, the song is built around a vocal looper, and Netta’s incredible acrobatics, chicken noises, percussive clicks and sheer rhythmic brilliance, but there’s also a bona fide ethno-pop banger underneath, in which we can hear her deliver all sorts of ear-catching melodies (even going full Migos flow for a while). And just because she’s that much of a badass, there’s a full-on dabke break at the beginning of the second verse, a homage to the rich musical traditions of the Levant. “Toy” is a work of genius; both accessible and experimental, both ethnic and cosmopolitan, in line with contemporary trends, but compositionally in a league of its own. It was the best song, by far, in Lisbon, a clear pre-show favorite, and it took the crystal microphone. It’s also a well-deserved fuck you to last year’s winner Salvador Sobral’s tone-deaf, unfortunate “fireworks vs. feelings” statements; not only because Salvador himself hated the song, but because Netta is indeed an incredibly accomplished musician, and however funny and bubbly “Toy” is, everything about it is as “real music” as that jazz interval show with Caetano Veloso in the Grand Final. Last year I mentioned how the contest will still be a big, beautiful, camp, queer party, and that music can be fireworks, feelings, and fun. “Toy” is all that, and much, much more. 

Katherine St Asaph: Douze points to… takes! So many separate vectors for takes that the intended #MeToo take doesn’t register at all. Or any song.

William John: The zany affectations and gurned squeaks bring to mind the way in which Björk is conceptualised by those who’ve never before heard a Björk song as the embodiment of unexplainable eccentricity. But the more obvious reference point for “Toy” is the singer previously of Karmin (who, as an aside, is now masquerading in blackface under a new nom de plume). In the same way that Karmin’s showy YouTube cover clips endeavoured to reduce rap to a game of tongue-twisters, performer Netta here overwhelms her song’s attempt to champion autonomy with garish, irritating theatrics.

Will Adams: The studio version of “Toy” is a stormer, zooming from section to section with off-the-wall production so fast it’s hard to keep up with. We’ve got Pikachus and teddybears and iPhone dings and Netta’s committed performance all leading up to an uplifting breakdown that quickly swerves into Arrested Development-style mockery of the stupid boy. The song itself is great. But Eurovision songs don’t exist in a bubble; they incorporate staging, choreography, styling choices, the pressure to play to juries and audiences’ expectation of what Eurovision “zaniness” looks like. And so we get bullshit like the Netherlands’s tone-deaf entry and Israel’s Stefani-esque grossness. The problem here is that it’s 2018 and people are still trotting out that old “what’s WRONG with paying tribute to OTHER cultures it’s not offensive it’s BEAUTIFUL” chestnut. And in a year that was very subdued by Eurovision’s standards, it’s too egregious to ignore.

Iain Mew: When TV commentators on the semi-final promised upcoming chicken noises, my thoughts turned immediately to Wang Rong. Little did I realise how apt that would prove, with the performance of “Toy” being every “check out this Japanese/Korean/Chinese pop culture, it’s so WTF!” article in stage form, but this time skipping the need for anyone East Asian to even be involved. There could be something in separating out “Toy” from its staging, up to the point of Netta explaining that “Baka is also ‘stupid’ in Japanese” and the realisation that treating Japanese as interchangeable with animal sounds is integral to the song too.

Edward Okulicz: Netta is a superlative performer, and “Toy” has an actual message, but it’s taken a really weird, silly song, musically, to bring both of those out. The way she clucks out those syllables while throwing in actual words between the clucks is evidence of impressive verbal dexterity. She’s all sing-song in the pre-chorus, and spitting fire in the actual chorus, so it’s not just dexterity, it’s ability to switch acting personas so playfully that’s also astonishing. The song makes me like Netta. But I don’t love the song itself, because the chorus with its “boy/toy” rhyme feels very childish and I keep waiting for the string swoops to turn into “7 Nation Army” — now there’s a killer bootleg waiting to happen. As frequently occurs with Eurovision songs, the on-stage production had some questionable aesthetic choices, but I can’t say I’ve ever seen a performer on stage quite like her.

Alex Clifton: God, it’s nice to have a fun winner for the first time in a few years, isn’t it? Don’t get me wrong — I liked Portugal’s song last year, and “1944” is a gorgeous song loaded with pain — but I come to Eurovision for silly, fizzy pop. “Toy” is an earworm for the ages that makes you want to dance, and also feels welcome in the age of #MeToo. “I’m not your toy” is a sentence I’ve thought as I’ve dealt with boys who somehow forget that women have interiority and lives not related to them, but rarely have I felt it as joyfully as when Netta yelps it. Empowerment songs are weird because for all the inspiring lyrics, they rarely have the actual undercurrent of power that should accompany them. Thankfully, Netta’s got charisma and force and sells this both as a dance song as well as a warning to the guys who may try to cross her.

Reader average: [3.8] (5 votes)

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7 Responses to “Netta – Toy”

  1. Controversy!

  2. good lord I did not know that that’s what Amy from Karmin was up to nowadays… yikes

  3. Zionist crap

  4. “God bless all those European voters who were willing, at a time when the personal has to be political (and when Lorde’s camp apparently can’t tell the difference between Tel Aviv and Jerusalem), to forget about boycotting, divesting, and sanctioning for a moment”

    Real nice timing there

  5. ki

  6. oh come on. COME ON. i mean i know this is the same group of people that fell for the propaganda shite “1944” a few years ago, but this takes the cake.

    “there’s a full-on dabke break at the beginning of the second verse, a homage to the rich musical traditions of the Levant” no that’s not a homage, that’s a zionist stealing the culture of the people that are being ethnically cleansed by her and her IDF mates. but the award for the worst review on this site goes to zionist apologist jessica doyle tho. bloody hell. does nobody see the irony in netta claiming her win is a win for diversity? it’s like a nazi officer winning an award and saying the same thing.

  7. get her