Remember when I told you Lebanese artists have absolutely no system for releasing albums and that Elissa actually setting a release date for her album was a good thing?
Well, I was wrong. Instead of releasing the album on June 25th, as planned, Elissa’s new album As3ad Wa7da (The Happiest One) was just released, a full week early. I believe it’s due to an early leak which is no excuse for a rush release. I doubt though that her fans are displeased.
The reason I’m reviewing this album, with it not being English music, is that I like Elissa. She is one of my favorite contemporary Lebanese singers, regardless of what some people might say about her vocal abilities. What impresses me the most about her is the fact that she is vocal about her beliefs, be it her religion or political views, in a region where that is frowned upon. I also liked the fact that her albums would usually be balanced between Egyptian and Lebanese songs, not exactly giving one dialect an upper hand over the other.
That last point changed with her newest release. The album holds 14 songs, 2 of which are covers of songs by the late Salwa el Atrib and Warda. Out of the remaining 12 songs, which constitute the new material, 3 are Lebanese songs and the rest is Egyptian. I don’t want to sound xenophobic but I would expect a little more balance from an artist who hails Lebanese nationalism as her politics of choice.
But I digress.
The quality of Elissa’s new album is average compared to her previous releases. After different album covers surfaced, the official one being the one at the top of this post, I was skeptical at what might come out of this. But it was a more or less an enjoyable listen.
Opening with the Egyptian dialect-song “Fi Ouyonak” (In Your Eyes), she caters to the people who await such a style from her: the slow, mellow romantic songs. And then as the album moves through songs, its level doesn’t die down. It remains more or less consistent, giving songs here and there that would please different parts of Elissa’s core fanbase which has been awaiting her album for more than two years now.
Te3ebt Minnak, my favorite song on the album, comes as the fifth track on the album and is as song about a relationship gone sour where the protagonist in Elissa’s song is tired from the person she’s singing to. “I wait for one sweet word from you and when I hear it, I forgot I lived less than an ordinary life with you”
Corny, perhaps. But effective. Of course, that’s my loose translation of one of the song’s lyrics.
Other interesting songs on the album are the Lebanese: Kerehtak Ana and Eghmerni. The former comes around the middle of the album while the latter follows it a song later. Kerehtak Ana is obviously about the end of the relationship while Eghmerni is the total opposite, boasting some interesting poetic nuances from writer Siham el Sha3sha3. However, both of them could have been so much better – they both needed an extra revision to bring them to their full potential, be it musically or production-wise.
Elissa’s take on Salwa el Atrib’s “Alouli el Eid” is interesting but I’m a fan of the song to begin with while her cover of Warda’s “Lola el Malama” shows a side of her vocals that most people would have doubted otherwise. Lola el Malama is also better-delivered from Elissa than Alouli el Eid.
As3ad Wa7da could have used the touch of Marwan Khoury who delivered some of Elissa’s best songs (Betmoun comes to mind), but overall it will satisfy those who like her. However, once the initial hype sets down, one wonders is this really the best Elissa can come up with after a two year and a half wait?
Judging by her more superior previous albums, As3ad Wa7da is an album that made Elissa transiently happy and will make her fans also happy that their favorite singer delivered a new album for them to listen to. But as a casual fan, As3ad Wa7da does almost nothing for me, apart from the few songs on there that I consider as interesting. In fact, I think it lacks anything that would jump at you like her previous albums did (the previous one had Aa Bali Habibi, the one before had Betmoun). Some songs on there are also entirely dispensable that I’ve found myself completely losing interesting halfway through them.
Overall, As3ad Wa7da has the exact formula that an Elissa album would have, except the songs are not as striking: the romantic slow songs, the upbeat dancey songs and the midtempos with trance verses interspersed in them.
Listen to: Te3ebt Minnak, Kerehtak Ana, As3ad Wa7da.