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The “New” Amr Diab //

bySeif Al-Din

(via Seif Al-Din’s tumblr blog)

As I loaded Amr Diab’s Wayah into VLC player, the program that new music has to make it through to get to iTunes on my computer (yes, even Amr Diab has to pass this test), most of the necessary elements in the perfect Amr Diab listening experience were present: summer, 87º F (27º C), sun shining, breeze flowing through my window (replacing the wind of a window-down car ride), and a pair of perfect studio monitors. What was missing? Egypt. But for the sake of this experience, my longing for Cairo’s streets and the 20×30 portrait of Khufu staring at me off the wall would suffice.

There are a few things with Diab that are given: His voice and formulaic vocal production will almost never sound bad; he has access to some of the world’s best musicians and engineers; people all over the world eagerly await and eventually celebrate his release dates; and he looks 1 to 3 years younger on each successive album cover. But does he always deliver the experience along with it? Unfortunately, not so given.

Wayah is…OK. All the pieces are there—the poppy house joint(s), the two or three slow jams, the few flamenco-Arab dinner-on-the-sea numbers, and the fillers that just seem to belong on the album and booming from tinny Fiat (or, these days, Toyota and Hyundai) speakers stuck in traffic. But what we all love and crave most—the feeling—just isn’t. Maybe it’s just me, but it wasn’t until “Malak” (listen) that I could smell the salt of the Mediterranean. (Which, to Diab and the song’s credit, really DID happen in my NYC apartment.)

The other thing that isn’t there is progression. Leadership. Evolution. Diab is a mogul and was once an innovator; he shouldn’t be contributing to the stagnation of Arabic pop music. But let’s face it: for the past few releases, he sort of has been. Some of the tracks on this album really had me excited in the first few measures. I thought, “Oh damn, he’s really about to change it up!” But then the 1+1=2 came in, which was disappointing.

Overall, I give the album a B minus. 4 or 5 songs will pass by the gatekeeper into iTunes bliss, while the rest will get archived in external hard drive hell. The music isn’t terrible; it’s just more of the same. If I want to listen to Amr Diab, there are plenty of good options from the past. And plus, we’re talking about a prolific music giant here. Just think: Can you name ONE B-rated Bob Marley album?

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