Monthly Archives: November 2013

Meet Stromae, the new Maestro of Europe’s music scene…

Meet Stromae, the new Maestro of Europe’s music scene…

 
 
The smile. The voice. The long, lean, androgynous body. The elegant look. The smart, if mournful lyrics, both poetic and realistic, a sharp contrast to the catchy tunes, a blend of rap, hip hop, electronic music and Latin rhythms.  
 
Meet Stromae the 28-year Belgian-born artist who is taking Europe (and French Canada) by storm. 
 
Stromae – French slang for “Maestro” – has developed a cult following in most European countries. If the social media is any indicator of success, numbers are impressive: 2.6 million follow his Facebook page. His most popular video to date, Formidable, has received over 43 million hits on Youtube. 
 
Two albums (Racine Carrée, Square Root, came out last spring.) Awards up the wazoo. His public appearances are greeted with much anticipation. He can discuss his origins, his career, and the issues confronting European youth articulately. He seems surprised, and humbled, by his success, but exudes self-confidence and controls all aspects of his career.
 
The guy has talent, and smarts. What’s not to like?


 

 
French friends recommended I checked him out. I liked what I heard. 
 
His first big hit was Alors on Danse, (Then you Dance,) a song he wrote about a friend going through a tough time. Some of Stromae‘s favorite themes are in the song: the rat race, divorce, loneliness, hopelessness. Yet, the pace is upbeat, and one can’t help watching the short movie… Stromae sold three million copies of the first album. 
 
 
 
 
Stromae, it turns out, is a trained musician, an accomplished percussionist, a fan of poetry. He studied cinema once, and it shows. He loves acting. All of his video clips play like mini-movies. 
 
The Guardian nicknamed him: “The Morrissey of the Eurozone,” because of his realistic and gloomy lyrics.

The young Belgian Dandy is also compared to one of his homeland’s most shining star, the late Jacques Brel, and was recently featured in the New York Times in a flattering piece. Are the United States his next stop? 

The fact that Stromae does not try to imitate other European artists by singing in English, might limit his appeal. Yet I noticed English subtitles in his most popular video, Formidable. Didn’t I tell you the kid had smarts?

Formidable happens to be an amazing song, thanks to Stromae‘s acting skills and creativity. The chorus is a clever play on words:

“Tu es formidable, je suis fort minable…” 
(You are wonderful, I am pathetic) 
 

(For those of you who study the French language, fort is often used in Belgium and the Northern part of France to translate très – very. Un minable is a loser.) 

The song tells the story of a painful breakup. The guy is drunk and mourns his failed relationship.  

Even if Stromae is acting (he grins at the camera at the end of the clip,) the video was shot with a hidden camera in downtown Brussels on a rainy morning (there are a lot of rainy mornings in Brussels, Belgium…) Passers-by did not know they were being taped. At some point, three policemen approach Stromae (they recognize him,) and offer to give him a ride home. He declines, and they let him go. 

Belgian cops are the most relaxed and understanding police force in the world!

The video clip went viral when leaked online, and the rest is history…





The young artist seems unstoppable. His new album tops European charts. My favorite song: Papa Outai (“Papa où t’es?” – Where are you, Daddy?) He draws on his personal experience to tell the story of a child with an absent father. 

The son of a Belgian mother and a Rwandan father, who later died in the Rwanda genocide, Stromae only met his own dad a few times in his life. The video clip is creative; the tune catchy and no doubt rocking all dance floors in Europe! My favorite line: 

“Tout le monde sait comment on fait des bébés;
Personne ne sait comment on fait des papas.”

 

(Everyone knows how to make babies;
Nobody knows how fathers are made.)

 

Papa Outay (Stromae) 

 

 

 



This week, to promote his ongoing French tour, Stromae made the headlines, and once again created a big buzz in the media, when he appeared at a popular talk show. Thanks to creative visual effects, he was able to introduce the audience to his “moitié”  (his better half,) in a hilarious skit. They both sparred in front of the audience for a few minutes before he/she launched in an entertaining rendition of “Tous les Mêmes,” (They are all the same.) Stromae‘s carefully cultivated androgynous look and acting skills came in handy. He brought the house down. 


Stromae and his better half (amazing special effects!)

 

Click here to watch the live performance.
(Song starts at 1:37)



Stromae… or Stromae?


I would love to hear what you think about my new friend. I am adding his new CD to my Christmas list and can’t wait to listen to the other songs on the album.

In the meantime, I know Stromae would approve the ending of this post: I will leave you with an iconic live performance by the great Belgian artist Jacques Brel, Amsterdam. 


A bientôt.




 
 
 
 

19 Responses to Meet Stromae, the new Maestro of Europe’s music scene…

  1. J’utilise mon joker et je passe mon tour.Je resterai juste sur Brel.
    Bonne chance pour mardi! je penserai à toi.
    Côte toujours sous le ciel noir, mais nous on en a vraiment besoin et on apprécie! :o)
    Bisous!

    • Je ne sais pas pourquoi, mais je me doutais que Stromae n’était pas trop ton style, Marie 🙂 Bon, mais comme je t’ai proposé aussi le grand Jacques, tu as finalement trouvé chaussure à ton pied. Merci pour les encouragements. Le moral est bon. Bisous.

  2. Bonjour ma chère amie,

    J’ai beaucoup aimé ta publication qui met à l’honneur cet artiste grandissant… Des mélodies et des textes merveilleux.
    Je te fais de gros bisous et te souhaite une bonne fin de weekend.

    • Bonjour à toi Martine. Comment va Leo le Toucan? Je viendrai faire un tour sur ton site cette semaine pour admirer une de tes dernières créations. Elles sont toujours si colorées, et on a bien besoin de couleur en ce moment, à Seattle. Je suis ravie que tu apprécies toi aussi notre jeune ami.

  3. Bonjour Véro! Alors, je sais exactement ce que je vais montrer à mes étudiants demain au lycée. On est en train d’écrire de la poèsie afin de partager sur scène, à la SLAM POÈSIE. Je crois que ce jeune homme est un bon example! WOW! Merci ma belle d’être venue me lire; je suis sûre que tu vas réussir à l’examen! La ponctuation anglaise n’est pas facile, ni la ponctuation française! BON COURAGE et tiens-moi au courant!

    BISOUS! Anita

    • Slam poésie. Excellent. Tes élèves ont bien de la chance, Anita. Moi, cruelle, je leur aurais fait écouter du Charles Trénet 🙂 Merci de tes encouragements. Je ne m’inquiète pas trop pour la section anglaise, mais un peu quand même pour les math. Ma dernière leçon remonte à 35 ans au moins! Aïe!

  4. Thank you for indroducing him here…His music is “catchy”, but it is also his drama & intensity that is compelling…The androgynous aspect of him makes me think a little of Michael Jackson who also had a powerful charisma.

  5. Hi! I wanted to say thank you for commenting on my blog & introducing me to yours! I know I’m going to be a big fan. It’s so interesting to hear your thoughts on France/French culture from a distance. Personally, I hated “Alors on danse” — couldn’t change the station fast enough! When Formidable came out on Belgian radio (I live in the North so we often listen to Belgian stations) I couldn’t get enough of it. It’s severely over-played at the moment, but I like it just the same. I think the lyrics are clever, which is a nice change from other over-played stuff like the ever-popular (& I don’t understand why) Sexion d’Assaut.

    • Bienvenue Amber. I see what you mean about “Alors on Dance.” The style is totally different from Stromae’s lastest album, and there are only so many times you can hear a song on the radio before overdosing 🙂 I am definitely getting the new album for Christmas, though. By the way, I did not mention this on your blog, but my family and I lived in Lille for years when I was younger. I am pretty familiar with Northern France (and Belgium.) A lovely city, Lille. I hear it’s changed a lot. I will have to stop by one of these days… Hope your “little friend” is behaving this week. Or maybe she has already packed her bags (with a little help from you, of course?) — A bientôt. d

  6. Hello Veronique

    I was just searching the net to see if the US has already discovered this remarkable talent. That’s how I stumbled upon your blog.

    Be sure to check out the other songs on his latest album, Racine Carrée. While awaiting Santa you can already do that on his Youtube channel (http://www.youtube.com/user/StromaeVEVO).

    Apart from the popular songs you already mentioned, my personal favorites are “Moules Frites” and “Quand c’est”. Coincidentally, they are both about nasty diseases (aids and cancer). The first one is quite cryptic; I actually didn’t get it at first. The second is a lot darker and has another nice play on words (“cancer, cancer, dis-moi quand c’est”).

    I would also advice to youtube some of his live performances. His interpretation of “Formidable” on Vivement Dimanche for instance (http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=AdWpgV2kO9w). It almost made me cry.

    I never thought there would be another Belgian artist on the level of the great Jacques Brel, until I heard Stromae… I hope you enjoy the rest of the album.

    Greetings from Belgium! (and yes it’s raining again)

    PS: “Papaoutai” already has 80 million views on Youtube 😉

    • Merci beaucoup Nils. Thank you for leaving not just one, but TWO messages. The reason you did not see your comments appear right away is because my blog is set up so I get to approve them first. A very good tool with so many spammers in Cyberspace!

      I gave in and ordered “Racine Carrée” on Amazon last week, and I love it. “Quand c’est” is a wonderful song, isn’t it? Clever lyrics. I love the way our young friend plays with words when he writes, then plays some more when he says them. He lets his “R’s” roll the way Brel did. I guess that is the biggest resemblance between them.

      Like you, I find “Formidable” very moving, and have been able to see several live performances on YouTube, including the concert in downtown Brussels this fall.

      Greetings from Seattle, where it is not raining (yet) but the sky looks so ominous I just know we will be getting snow – or rain – in the next 48 hours.

      A bientôt, I hope.

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26 Responses to Mieux vaut en rire… Laughter is the best medicine…

  1. Totally brilliant and fascinating article with great pics. I couldn’t stop reading and yes, like you, I won’t be eating American fast food anytime soon. We have a McDo’s in Menton and in Monaco. Oh dear …

  2. C’est bien de finir avec l’histoire du lama! C’est vrai que ça a fait rire et sourire tout le monde , dans cette periode de morosité intense. Et c’est une histoire qui en plus finit bien.
    Pour le reste, Starbucks vient d’ouvrir un 2eme établissement à Nice, et depuis samedi dernier nous avons aussi un Hard Rock Cafe! Sinon, jamais entendu parler du chou frisé dans la region en tant que projet culinaire, et Burger King a plié bagage depuis longtemps .
    Ici, rien ne devrait détrôner notre socca et nos pissalaldières :o)
    Je crois que dans les régions culturellement fortes , la resistance à l’envahisseur, qu’il soit américain ou “hollandais”, reste très forte ..
    Passe une bonne semaine! Bisous!

    • Bonjour Marie. Le Hard Rock Café existe encore? Je ne le savais même pas. A une époque, la chaîne appartenait aux “grosses pointures” américaines, comme Bruce Willis, Sylvester Stallone, etc. Ils ont du vendre il y a longtemps.

      En ce qui me concerne, je resterai fidèle aux pissaladières (et à cette incroyable tarte aux blettes sucrée) lors de mes passages à Nice. Ce qui n’exclut pas une bonne glace au Negresco pour le dessert, en bonne compagnie, bien sûr. Bisous.

  3. So sad to read of the cultural erosion in France. Thankfully I’ve experienced very little of it in the east of the country, where we have our petite maison. “Fast food” is something which comes from the boulangerie or a vendor at the local market!
    Warm regards

    • Sounds like a great place to spend a few months a year, Elizabeth (just not winter months, since we are referring to that part of France…) How is “La Petite Folie” coming along? Have you sacked – or flogged – those lazy contractors yet?

  4. LOVE ALL THE OBSERVATIONS and the way you have woven this post- ALWAYS a delight and informative too-my favorite part was the llama tale and the spirit of forgiveness from the circus owner-that is tres Bordeaux non

    • Merci beaucoup g. Glad you enjoyed my little tales… That llama story is priceless, isn’t it? I am not sure the owner was that forgiving, but when he realized thousands of people were behind the young rebels, (and since Serge had not been hurt,) he decided to go along with the crowd. I am personally happy for that old Llama he got to see the world, even if only from the inside of an urban tram. How many circus animals get to escape their cages for a few hours? 🙂

  5. Dearest Véronique,
    Oh, if you mention those beurre sandwiches, you make me drool as we too served them in The Netherlands. With ham, cheese, roast beef and with beef tartare… It is so good and I would take it anytime instead of a greasy burger. Also we have the veal croquette and that inside a fresh baked whole wheat bread-bun… Yummy!
    Dreams… But yes, the social media is very rapidly creating one world taste, one world food, etc. etc. Not very positive as a lot of things will become forever lost. A shame but nobody seems to be bothered by it.
    Sad story about the French journalists…
    Hugs to you,
    Mariette

    • Veal croquette, eh? That sounds good to me, Mariette. I would not worry so much about the social media jeopardizing local cultures. Paris is a big cosmopolitan city where people have traditionally enjoyed new trends and fads. Things are very different when you leave the French capital and reach culture-proud regions. See my friend Malyss’s comments above. Hamburgers may be popular now, but who knows if they will still be around in Paris in 10 years? Halloween, another American import, was big for a few years. Today, it’s all but disappeared in my homeland. C’est la vie…

  6. This post definitely counts as one of your very best —- I laughed, I cried…. I, too, am worried for my belle France. I just want France to remain as she is (or was) and the US to do the same. Is that asking too much? Perhaps it is.

    I have never been able to eat and walk at the same time. I cannot eat unless I am seated at a table. Am I missing a certain street gene? Hmmmm. Oh well………mieux vaut en rire. It’s better to laugh than to cry.

    Big bisous, ma grande, M-T

    • Ah, M-T. I just can’t see you eating and walking either, my elegant friend! 🙂 France will be just fine. Paris has always enjoyed experiencing new things, and it needs to evolve a bit, just as London is these days. From what I saw last summer traveling around la Belle France, WiFi may be available almost everywhere now, but the [French] lifestyle as you and I knew, is alive and well. And that is a good thing.

  7. VÉRO! BONJOUR!

    OK, this post touches my heart in more ways than one. Even though I am not French-born but have adopted not only the language but French culture, it makes me very sad to know that the American way is slowly creeping into France. When I was in France 11 years ago (YIKES! I better get myself over there again soon!), I was INTRIGUED to find how different I found things from here in the states. I know I cannot be the only Francophile/tourist who finds a beauty and charm in seeing THE DIFFERENCES that make us, well…..DIFFERENT! But to think that the American market is slowly going in to change the French landscape and eating habits makes me angry. I want to go to France or any other country for that matter to see how THEY LIVE, not a mirror of how I live….oh it just kills me. LONG LIVE THE FRENCH WAY! And I was so glad to know LES BOYS and all of that fiasco turned out: Tout est bien qui finit bien, bien sûr!

    THANK YOU FOR VISITING! Anita

    • Bonjour Anita, et merci de ta visite. Take heart my friend, cultural differences abound, and I know I am in France as soon as I land at Charles de Gaulle airport (probably my least favorite place in Europe, by the way…) France has so many (strong) regional cultures, and there is still so much regional pride left. As demonstrated by recent current events, Asterix and Obelix would feel right at home if they returned to Armorique (sorry, to la Bretagne…) today! Good luck to fancy hamburgers and kale chips. I personally hope they make outside of Paris. We would not want good old McDo to enjoy the whole [fast food] cake by itself, now, would we? Bon weekend!

  8. Wow, I had no idea Burger King was a legend. I must get out more often! I just think of it as an overrated, inexpensive, unhealthy way to consume calories. One of the delights of visiting France is to eat “their” fabulous cuisine. The locals must be bored?

  9. Firstly, just seeing the first image has reminded me again to reread my Astérix books! Secondly, it’s lunchtime here and how I wish I could eat a sandwich like the ones piled high in your photo. Le jambon-beurre will never be boring!! I’m astounded that France is McDonald’s second most profitable market – I had to read that twice to make sure I had understood. Clever marketing from Burger King too. Great post which kept me entertained from start to finish,
    PS Thank you so much for your comment on my Doha post. I always appreciate your visits and thoughts! Merci Véronique!

  10. je découvre ton blog, il est très sympathique et j’adore lire tes rubriques, certaines sont parcellaires dans le contenu mais j’adore la façon dont tu te moques gentiment des Français! j’aime beaucoup cela m’amuse!
    Have a nice day! Cath. (je vis près de Reims! en champagne à côté de Paris)

    • Merci beaucoup et bienvenue chez moi, Cath. Je suis nostalgique de la France, et tu t’apercevras en lisant mes billets, surtout les plus anciens, que j’égratigne de temps en temps les Français (surtout quand ils le méritent, comme avec l’histoire des hamburgers 🙂 Nos amis Américains ne sont pas épargnés, comme cette semaine – même si je le fais toujours avec humour et courtoisie. En effet, je n’aime pas les expatriées qui crachent dans la soupe (et j’évite leurs blogs comme la peste!) Je file faire un tour chez toi pour découvrir ton blog. A bientôt j’espère…

  11. Hello. I am late with this comment but just found this post. Thank you so much for including me in your post about the demise of France when it comes to fast food (that yes, I will admit is marketed by horrible American companies and I never personally eat). I’m a bit confused as to why myself and The Kale Project are included in a post about corporate companies that promote processed, fast-food. All I have tried to do is work with local, French farmers to grow a légume oublié that has European origins and increase supply so people can buy it for their own home cooking. We do not all live in the country where it’s grown for rabbits or cows. I’ve never said it is American “thing” as it’s just another option of cabbage for people to buy and eat. I’ve never once said that I’m trying to change French food culture or teach French people how to eat – clearly a silly, stupid American would never do such a thing! But I do not think chou frisé non-pommé and hamburgers/processed food trucks belong in the same discussion. How am I in any way harming or hurting your home country? Thank you. Kristen Beddard

  12. Dear Kristen. Thank you for stopping by. If you have been hurt by this story, I apologize. First, let me reassure you: I do not believe that you, “the Kale Crusader” (gotta love the New York Times,) are harming my country in any way. This post was not intended to bemoan the “demise of France,” either. I think France will survive Mc Do, Burger King, trendy food trucks, and yes, kale chips, just fine.

    If you are familiar with my stories, you know I enjoy commenting on new trends in French society, or on cultural differences between our two countries. The reason you are mentioned in this lighthearted story is because your name came up online when I researched the current obsession with kale, kale chips, and everything kale, especially in the US. Nothing more, nothing less.

    As such, you are part of this post. I have not linked you in any way to fast food, or American companies, or accused you of trying to change French food culture. I did quote people who might have thought so, however. You are on a mission. Good for you.

    If I did poke fun of someone in this story (as I have been known to do on occasion,) my target was French people, in particular Parisians, who will adopt anything as long as “C’est très Brooklyn.”

    I am sorry you do not agree that “chou frisé” and “processed foods” do not belong in the same discussion. When I wrote this story, I thought they did. As did Serge the llama.

    Good luck in your endeavor.

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