Since the business of holiday music is growing so fast – it occupies five of the top 10 places on the Billboard Hot 100 this week – we are re-presenting some of our stories from Christmas seasons past. This piece, about a Hannukah compilation, originally ran in 2019.
Two years ago, Verve Forecast approached Grammy-winning music supervisor Randall Poster (Boyhood, The Grand Budapest Hotel, The Irishman) with a proposition: curate and produce a Hanukkah album. “I had just finished doing the soundtrack to the movie SuperFly with Future, and I thought, ‘Wow, that’s a great follow-up: Hanukkah,’ ” recalls Poster, who grew up celebrating the holiday. He started reaching out to friends and collaborators, “convincing them that I wasn’t kidding.”
But it wasn’t until longtime pal Jack Black sent in two recordings — one of which was actually a Passover song — that Poster felt he had the foundation for an album. “Jack gave us the substance, so everything [else] would feel like it was part of a whole.” The additional song ended up inspiring the title of Hanukkah+ (out now, and on vinyl Dec. 13), which boasts a mix of covers and original music from the likes of HAIM and The Flaming Lips.
The market for Christmas music is massive. What was the strategy behind putting out a Hanukkah album?
It’s not an easy thing. It doesn’t have the built-in Christmas music collectors, so we talked about trying to have a longer view — there’s an evergreen quality to it. But also, making it available at nontraditional retailers, like all of the synagogue gift shops, and seeing if we can make contact with the built-in audiences that the various artists on the record have [helped].
How did you ensure it wouldn’t come off as parody?
Probably the most famous Hanukkah song at this point is Adam Sandler’s “The Hanukkah Song.” That’s why I was searching for a spiritual component, which allowed me to approach artists who weren’t Jewish, who had no real sense of the holiday or the history. I tried to find balance, because I wanted to have some of that silly, joyful element.
Was it tough to get artists onboard?
It’s not an easy one where you can say, “Hey, let’s do ‘Baby, It’s Cold Outside,’ ” and set the stage for somebody to just come in and sing. My hope is if this goes well, maybe next year we do another five songs and just add to it. One person that I really wanted to get — he said he would but just got caught up in the sweep of his new record — was Ezra Koenig.
Why such fondness for Hanukkah?
It was always the fun Jewish holiday, really. And as far as the musical repertoire [went], “The Hanukkah Song” was pretty much the favorite, or “Dreidel Dreidel.” I had a sense of it being a musical holiday, though there aren’t that many to choose from.
What will success for the album look like to you?
To tell you the truth, I feel like it already is a success. For me as a Jew, it was important to focus on more of the spiritual component, and I think we’ve captured that. I’m waiting for my rabbi to hear it.