Judah Holiday grew up in the Boogie Down Bronx, a borough of New York City that has created some of the most influential music of the past 100 years. (Hip-hop, as urban mythology has it, was invented in the Bronx as a way to end gang violence.)
After mastering the drums by age seven, he took up the guitar to feed his passion for melody. Already writing music and performing, it didn’t take long before a very young Holiday was playing at iconic venues like CBGB and taking up a space in the Lower East Side music scene. In that historic Big Apple hot house, Holiday came to see what the power of collaboration and the strength of music can do.
By 2011, he had moved to Miami and immersed himself in the city's electronic dance music world.
Holiday may create pop music technically, but his chops and inspiration come from artists like Neil Young and James Taylor. Listening to them, he says, helped to educate him on the simplicity of great songwriting. Although when you listen to Judah’s debut album, Feelings in My Head, you won’t necessarily hear those influences immediately. It's songs like "Sunshine in the Room," a beautiful acoustic track, that has that simple James Taylor groove.
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Holiday is more than a pop singer, writing songs that resonate but aren’t glossed out to reflect the perfection and streamlined appeal we've come to expect from a pop album. His lyrics express his experiences dealing with addiction — he was hooked to Adderall — and overcoming life's difficulties. One look at the visuals for the single "Good Life," where an upbeat pop-anthem sound backs lyrics about entering rehab and the fall from grace that comes with it. The video juxtaposes scenes from a pool party, typical of sexy, steamy Miami, and Holiday being received and treated at a drab drug rehabilitation center. Songs like this connect with South Floridians. The state is littered with for-profit rehab centers, playing on their sunny location, reflecting the glitter of a coastal paradise. The duality found in the track and it’s connection with South Florida reminds me of the Neil Young's "The Needle and the Damage Done."
Holiday made a great decision in moving to Miami. Under the humid skyline of modern day Casablanca remains a wealth of inspiration that hasn’t been tapped nearly enough as of late. Although he may have grown up in the New York City, he’s all Miami now. The production on most of Feelings in My Head feels like it was made while sitting on the sands of South Beach and observing the goings-on throughout the day and into the night, when the neon lights and beautiful people turn on and party like there isn’t a thing in the world out of place. Typical South Florida.
His music has the sound of hope in it and the idea that, in the end, everything is going to be all right. Holiday didn’t get that from growing up in the New York City of the 1980s. That comes from the dystopian paradise he currently calls home.
But that sound of hope is infused with stories that have the kind of blunt force that can only come from the Bronx
The distinctions between Holiday's music production and his songs' lyrical content have given us a uniquely truthful Miami pop artist.
A tremendous example of this is the track "All That I Got Tonight," where Holiday starts off talking about being sober and the changes it has brought to his daily life. The song's chorus and title speak to his holding on to that sliver of hope — it’s all he's got going for him right now, and that’s all right. It’s a sentiment that many who fight to get clean have to come to terms with.
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Holiday's ability to express himself creatively and speak truth about his own hard-luck experiences has found him a home on many a playlist in South Florida and well beyond. Fans across the country relate to his catchy pop records that hold real meaning in a world that seems to become more and more content with mass depravity. It’s a song like "Move On," asking, Where do you go when you’re alone? Holiday talks about self reflection and the difficulty of getting back to what he once was, something so many of us think about in moments of despair, when the realization comes of the need for deep change.
Holiday has only just begun his time in the proverbial sunlight of popular music, but as long as he keeps growing as an artist and finding creative ways to express what he has on his mind, he could very well spend a good long time there.
Y100's Jingle Ball Village. With Judah Holiday, CNCO, Zara Larrson, Shaed, AJ Mitchell, and others. 2-6 p.m. Sunday, December 22, at BB&T Center, 1 Panther Pkwy., Sunrise, 954-835-8000; thebbtcenter.com. Admission is free.
Y100's Jingle Ball. With the Jonas Brothers, Niall Horan, Ozuna, and others. 7 p.m. Sunday, December 22, at BB&T Center, 1 Panther Pkwy., Sunrise, 954-835-8000; thebbtcenter.com. Tickets cost $36 to $501 via ticketmaster.com.