Israel’s YouTube superstar Idan Matalon, whose lipsync videos have attracted thousands, is going a step forward in his career and has released, for the first time, an original song, in which he *really* sings. And guess what: the song is about Tel Aviv. “After I made so many videos, mostly lipsyncing to songs in English, I started thinking that the only disadvantage was that it wasn’t 100% my creation, because the songs weren’t mine. I think this is why people found it hard to see me as a producer and endorser, and saw me only as a YouTube lipsync star,” Idan says in an exclusive interview with A Wider Bridge. “The thought of an original song came to me about six months ago, after I started feeling kinda fed up with lipsyncing and realized it’s time to fully prove to the world what I’m capable of. It was pretty obvious to me that the song would be about Tel Aviv, because I received all of my inspiration for my previous videos from the city- the vibe, the colors, the different and interesting people, and mostly the feeling that you can do anything here without people judging you. I wanted to show the real and happy Israel to the world, because I think that people know only what they see on the news- that Israel is dark and depressed and has wars. It’s not so much like this in everyday life.”
Matalon, 24, grew up in Gan Yavne, a small village near Ashdod in the south of Israel. He moved to Tel Aviv right after he finished his IDF mandatory service, and he says that producing videos was an old passion of his. “I started filming things as a hobby at a very early age,” says Idan. “I’ve never studied it, so I worked basically on intuition. I started making lipsync videos and uploaded them to YouTube, I think since that website was born. At a time when most people didn’t even know what YouTube is.”
“One day I decided to go with a camera to the streets and film myself in one shot lipsyncing to the song ‘Ding Dong’ by Dana International. A few days after that I realized that the video had reached the whole LGBT community in Israel and even spread outside Israel. I realized that I’d had some kind of a wave of success, so I maintained it by releasing more and more videos, trying to surprise the growing audience each time. I also opened a video blog and told my coming out story, and it just caught on!”
When did you come out to your parents?
“I decided to come out at 20, after I realized that a relationship with a man is what I want to have. I told some of my friends and they were very supportive. I didn’t plan to tell my parents that soon, but I guess they knew me too well so they saw I was going through something. So I told them during a Shabbat dinner, when everyone was at the table.”
What was their reaction?
“They were in shock at the beginning, especially my dad. He asked my mom to bring him a tranquilizer . Then he got up off his chair. We were all sure that he was going to walk away from the table, but instead he walked towards me, hugged me and cried. It took me a few days to come back to myself, and realized that now my parents see me 100% as who I am.”
Idan says he was very surprised by the success of his videos, but in the early stages of his career he decided to do something good with that success, and concentrate on making videos that would show how great Tel Aviv is, and make people see Israel in a slightly different way. “A few months ago I asked my friends in social media to send me videos filming themselves saying ‘I Support Israel,'” he recalls. “I received a tremendous amount of support from the Jewish community in the US. I received one video of a group of people and kids shouting together ‘I Support Israel’ waving the Israeli flag. It was very exciting.”
What was the most exciting reaction you received?
“A few months ago I wanted to make a video to the song ‘Good Times’ that was just released. The idea was to make an all-around-the-world lipsync video, so I made up a dance, filmed myself teaching how to dance, and asked people to send me videos of them dancing it on their streets, in their countries. I received one video from a 40 year old man, I think he was from South Dakota, who took his parents, grandmother, and other teens to see it, and the video shows all of them doing my routine, with horses in the background. I cried when I saw it for the first time. It was amazing.”
In his first original song, Idan cooperated with singer Lihi Admon and producers Eldar and Sharon Brantman. “Working on this is the most challenging thing I’ve done, and I owe the amazing result mostly to the amazing talent of Sharon and Eldar. For the video, the idea was to showcase the Tel Aviv atmosphere, the freedom to be who you are, and show some individual characters that people can relate to. Most of the days of shooting were during the war in Israel. I even uploaded one behind -the- scenes take when we started filming and were caught up by a siren before a missile hit Tel Aviv.”
How do you see your career progress from here? What does the future hold for you?
“First and foremost, it’s important to me to be creative, to take on an interesting project and produce it from the first idea to the end result.
Being in the front is a plus because I really like doing it. It’s also very important to me to continue to make a difference in how people perceive Israel. I also want to continue writing. I have a personal column in Mako-Pride in Israel, and I hope it encourages people to be who they really are. I want to continue doing all of these things. I find that helping people in this way is very satisfying to me. I have a lot of ambitions, and you can never know how things turn out.”