Essay: Billboard’s “Top Jewish Musicians” List is a Shonda

Sections: Music

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Earlier this month, Billboard magazine released a list of “The Top 30 Jewish Musicians.” Released in conjunction with Hannukah, and because the Internet these days is all about lists, the list was based on a criteria of “Jewish musicians who have made the biggest impact on the Hot 100 over the decades.”

If you read the fine print, you’ll find that the list is based on a sliding scale of chart representation over the years, which is weighted to give older songs a chance. Which is just about the only criteria that makes any sense, because there’s no way a list of Top Jewish Musicians would look anything like this one.

No, I have no argument with #1 Billy Joel, even if one of his most famous songs was about trying to convince a teenaged Catholic girl to have sex with him. But Paula Abdul and Pink in the fifth and sixth spots? Who knew Pink was Jewish? Adam Levine and Michael Bolton in the top ten? Bob Dylan all the way down at #25? Leonard Cohen not on the list at all? Taylor Dayne one spot ahead of Paul Simon?

Nevermind that the list completely omits from every genre of specifically Jewish music, from Debbie Friedman to Schlomo Carlebach to every Cantor who has ever lived. There’s even a guy who emerged as the a huge pop sensation, in the last ten years, while dressed for some of that time in full Hasidic garb. But no, Matisyahu doesn’t make the list.

I get it- they went by chart positioning and the math is the math. But shouldn’t Billboard have called it “Highest-Charting Jewish Musicians” instead?


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