An inspiration, an artist, a real and utter thrill. She may have become uncomfortably "Celine Dion-ish" during the last few years, but you can't blame a girl for chasing fame, especially in those heels.
So spare a thought for Dana International, Israel's first (but surprisingly not only) transsexual pop princess. She clawed her way up thanks partly to Ofer Nissim's unorthodox power-production, surprised everybody by winning the Eurovision contest, and surprised everybody again by falling over at Eurovision the following year.
Her style was initially fluffy camp with lots of Arabic whoopy-hollery nods. On their way toward Eurovision, the Dana/Nissim partnership took on a harder-edge; all that whooping and hollering became somewhat scary and resulted in their best album to date, as well as their best video: "Chinquemilla." Yup, that's a banana.
Sadly, Dana International and Ofer Nissim parted ways shortly after her Eurovision win, and while he's continued blazing trails she has become...well, sort of a victim of the top forty climb. She's still fabulous, but she's no longer very "different," which puts her in a musical league that she can't compete in (especially not in English). Here's her latest single, "Love Boy," from the latest album this is constantly just about to be released. Sure it's great and all, but what sets it apart (besides Dana's crotch?)
In Las Vegas I met a cab driver who claimed to be her former lighting assistant. He said she was a jerk, and I believe him. Still, to become a transsexual pop star in the middle east -- and to go so mainstream as to hawk insurance for a "girls only" insurance plan -- is a significant accomplishment. And much of her music is simply amazing, no matter how much her "diva" stuff annoys me.
Albums to buy? Oh, "Maganuna," the wildest one out there! Albums to avoid? Anything post-Eurovision...they're not TERRIBLE, they just aren't very good. For fans only? Any of the frequent Israel-only special editions, which tend to come in outrageous packaging yet offer very little new music.