Music

The singer and dancer was dubbed “Mr. Paradise” by the hosts of the morning show.

WEST HOLLYWOOD, CALIFORNIA - MARCH 10: Mergui attends Elton John AIDS Foundation's 32nd Annual Academy Awards Viewing Party on March 10, 2024 in West Hollywood, California.

via Jerod Harris/Getty Images for the Elton John AIDS Foundation

I’m obsessed with Mergui. The 24-year-old Israeli pop star first rose to fame in 2017 while competing in the Israeli reality show “Next Star for the Eurovision,” where he made it to second place, losing out to Netta, who wound up winning that year’s Eurovision contest. Judges called him the “Israeli Justin Bieber,” and he’s released countless excellent pop hits since. In 2023, Mergui, whose full name is Jonathan Mergui, moved to Los Angeles to launch an international career. And this week, he made his “Today” show debut with an excellent new English language EP called “Shadows of Blue,” which he released earlier this month. He performed the song “Happy Now” on the daytime talk show.

Mergui was introduced by host Craig Melvin, who mentioned that he was named one People.com’s Spring 2024 emerging artists, where they wrote that “his music feels like ‘Paradise,’” a reference to his single, “Paradise.”

Melvin called Mergui “Mr. Paradise himself,” and the singer shared that “it’s really a dream come true. I can’t believe I’m here on the “Today” show performing my song… I just released my EP; it’s not mine anymore, it’s everybody’s.” He explained that the EP is about his life and his experience with feeling blue, but also inspired by the realization that “there’s no shadow without light. Every shadow in my life means that there’s light on the other side.” The EP also echoes the title of his excellent Hebrew EP “Sagol Bahir,” which means “bright purple.”

A lot of Mergui’s songs, including the soulful “Happy Now,” seem to be inspired by heartbreak and break-ups. He was famously involved with Israeli singer and Eurovision contestant Noa Kirel. His current girlfriend, pop star Anna Zak, shared a video from Mergui’s performance that morning. Mergui was wearing a striped suit jacket, a white tee and jeans, and had a yellow ribbon tied around his arm, a sign of solidarity with the hostages currently being held in Gaza. His even shared some of his dance moves, which he is also widely beloved for in Israel.

Mergui’s “Cry” from the same EP samples Elton John’s “Yellow Brick Road,” and the artist even met up with the British pop icon on Oscar night, during an Elton John AIDS Foundation charity gala.

“A pleasure to meet @mergui recently whose new single, ‘Cry’, refashions ‘Goodbye Yellow Brick Road’. A talented young musician, good luck with the single!” John shared on his Instagram.

“Shadows of Blue” is Mergui’s second EP, after his 2022 “Dark Side of the Rainbow,” which is also full of great pop hits including “Sucks To Know,” which he sang live on The Kelly Clarkson show.

Mergui was born in Israel, the son of Israeli actress and singer Meital Trabelsi, known, among other things, for her moving Hebrew cover of “O Captain! My Captain!” dedicated to the late Israeli Prime Minister Yitzhak Rabin, and Israeli designer Peddy Mergui. His parents come from Moroccan and Tunisian Jewish families. When auditioning for “The Next Star for Eurovision,” he sang the song “How Far I’ll Go” from Disney’s “Moana.” It’s pretty impressive to think of how far hes gone since then, and how much further his talent might yet take him.





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