Saturday, November 16, 2013

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.


  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)

    1. 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. Great post - I loved it. My girls adore Stromae! Thanks for a great post - I shared it with my girls so they could appreciate his background even more!!

    1. Merci beaucoup Jennifer. Your daughters have excellent taste! I am so glad a friend of mine mentioned Stromae last week. He has not made his way to Seattle yet, but I have a feeling he might soon...

  3. 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.

    1. 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.

  4. 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

    1. 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!

  5. Tous et formidable Veronique for bringing us Stromae. He is so talented and his voice is unique. He will go far. He is also very handsome. Oh la la

    Helen xx

    1. Isn't he the cutest, Helen? I am too old to be his girlfriend, so I would not mind adopting him. He would make a great older brother for my 13-year old! :-) A bientôt.

  6. 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.

    1. I agree with you. He reminds me of so many people; yet Stromae is his own person. Very unique. Glad you enjoyed his music.

  7. 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.

    1. 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

  8. Merci, Véronique! I'm so pleased that you have introduced us to Stromae. He is indeed talented and unique and I particularly enjoyed Formidable. His music is catchy but the lyrics are well-thought out and meaningful which is always a bonus! He certainly deserves to be successful.

  9. J'adore your new young friend Veronique :) Goodness me he really is a tall very lean young man...super cool oui!

  10. 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 (

    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 ( 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 ;-)

    1. 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.

  11. Me encanta Stromae!! Lo escuché en una clase de francés, y nos encantó! Todos caturreamos Papa outai varios días!!
    Unas fotos preciosas. Me gusta tu blog, espero que el mío llegue a ser así.
    Una abrazo.


Bonjour! I love hearing from you, my readers. To quote a fellow blogger, my friend Owen, "Comments are the icing on blogcake... Comments are the UFO in the twilight sky bearing news from other planets... Comments are raspberry vinegar in salad dressing... Comments are the cool balm of after-sun moisturizing lotion... Comments are the moment the band comes back out onstage to play an encore... Comments are the gleam in the eye across the room in a smoky bar... Comments are the rainbow after the rainstorm..." Merci for your comments! French Girl in Seattle