When Israeli singer Mergui took the stage at Sun Rose in Los Angeles on Thursday night, it was clear the 22-year-old singer had some serious supporters in his corner. Chief among them: Haim Saban, veteran businessman, philanthropist, owner of the Power Rangers IP, and head of the record label who founded Saban Music Group in 2019, sits front row and center (with a double mask, wearing surgical gloves) for his latest signing. Next to Saban is Jody Gerson, chairman of Universal Music Publishing Group, and Aton Ben-Horin, head of global A&R at Warner Music Group. Others in the room were Saban CEO Gustavo Lopez, top music managers from CAA and UTA, APG founder Mike Caren, radio programmers, and celebrities.
For a new artist, having so many gatekeepers for their first major show in the U.S. is a dream come true. Mergui found success in his home country with two Hebrew pop songs after finishing second in the singing competition “Rising Star” (in May, he opened Maroon 5 in Tel Aviv with dozens of thousands of performances), which marks an all-too-familiar reboot of Israeli artists looking to break into the U.S. market: back to zero.
But Mergui’s English debut comes with some baggage, as his first single, “Sucks to Know You (FU),” unapologetically showcases in its roaring guitar-driven chorus: “Fuck you/I hate it. You/I miss you/It sucks to know you.”
In Sun Rose, Mo Gui did not name names but did share some details. “Back in Israel, I dated another artist and it was a unique relationship,” he said of the song “Falling.” “It’s in front of the camera. The media almost slept in our bed.”
In an interview earlier on Thursday type confirmed that his former Israeli pop star Noa Kirel is the centerpiece of his upcoming “Dark Side of the Rainbow” EP.
Of the four songs that make up the series, “Sucks to Know You (FU)” is actually the last in a series documenting a broken relationship.
“It’s a post-relationship situation; we’ve broken up,” Mergui explained. “It’s almost a fantasy when you meet your ex for the first time after a while. What would you tell her? Because obviously, you have a tornado of that feeling inside you, right? You have a thousand pieces of Things to say to her. But like you need to sum it up somehow. So I summed up these four things.” (Watch the video of “It’s Bad to Know You” below.)
Breakup records have been around since the dawn of commercial pop, including heartbreak albums by artists such as Marvin Gaye, Alanis, and Adele. Mergui’s process seemed to turn into resentment. (Worth noting: Noa Kirel’s “I Don’t Know You” is pretty much where it is today, a year after Noa Kirel released her debut single “Please Don’t Suck” in 2021. Coincidence? )
“We’re a powerful couple—it’s talked about a lot, and we always have cameras and media with us,” Mergui shared. “You can imagine how difficult it was for us.”
The title of the EP pretty much sums it up. “Everyone thought it was a rainbow,” he said of his time with Kirel. “But deep down, I knew it wasn’t going to work. It was complicated and tricky to fix, so I put my eyes on it and almost pretended, you know, I got it.”
The video for “Sucks to Know You” shot in Croatia addresses this breakdown in the form of a visual metaphor. “It’s like I’m pulling a car that doesn’t work anymore,” Mergui said. “When something is broken or damaged in the car, you can always fix it. But when the engine is broken and there’s no more love, there’s nothing you can do.”
“The Dark Side of the Rainbow” as a series is “a relationship story from start to finish,” Mergui continued, thanks to Israeli producers Johnny Goldstein and Jordi, singers Noga Erez (Kirel’s label partner at Atlantic Records) and Mike, among others Collaborator Dean, producer, and multi-instrumentalist, has worked extensively with Kanye West and Travis Scott and is currently touring the Weeknd.
The EP wasn’t all sad, though. It ends on a positive note, titled “Heaven”. Mergui said, “This is the beginning of a new chapter. I’ve realized it’s over and I’m like, accept it and get ready to move on and start over. It’s like I did in America.”
Mergui and Kirel didn’t speak for a minute, but he did reach out to her recently to let her know “it’s coming,” he said. “I felt compelled to write to her. She said, ‘I’m so happy for you, it’s coming out. ” but we haven’t posted here yet [yet], so I don’t know how she will respond. ”
Three years of work have resulted in four very personal songs where you can hear some of Mergui’s influences including Stevie Wonder, Michael Jackson, Justin Bieber, Justin Timberlake, and Bruno Mars. Mergui’s swagger on the Sun Rose stage even had a hint of Harry Styles.
“It took me some time because I knew who I was; I knew what I wanted to say; but I didn’t know, what it would sound like,” said Mergui, who also wrote and produced. “I had to find my musical identity; build it brick by brick; I feel like we found it.”