Guess what, you’re late. In fact, all of America is tardy to the party of the world’s biggest dance music artist Stromae, who’s taken Europe by storm.
Fortunately, Time Out is keeping us in the loop and spoke to the 30-year-old Brussels star, whose song "Alors On Danse," below, is all the rage. His sophomore album Racine Carrée has gone platinum eight times in Belgium but for all of his fame, Stromae, who sings in French and attracted Kanye West's attention, is taking a low-key approach to fame.
“I think that people here are able to understand that I don’t want to be bothered. People recognize you, yes, but nobody’s crazy, nobody’s screaming," he says. "It’s really quiet. And maybe that’s why I love Brussels. Because it’s a boring city, and I’m proud of this city because it’s boring.”
Stromae, born Paul Van Haver, covers all manner of topics in his music which he calls a mix of “hip-hop, dance music, salsa and French folk music.” His lyrics tell stories of AIDS, cancer, family madness and more. And though some of the tracks are sad — and if you don’t speak French, you won’t understand anyway — his beats are dance-y and infectious. He also tackles gender stereotypes in his song “Tous les mêmes,” below, and displays his half-man, half-woman performance art character from the clip on TimeOut’s cover.
Here are a few of the interview’s highlights:
On embracing hard conversations:
“I think it’s important to talk about everything. I want to talk about every kind of subject. Music is the only place that I can have no taboos. In real life I have a lot of taboos, and I can’t talk about everything easily. But I have to listen to it again and again and again, and change sometimes so I don’t sound just angry and aggressive.”
On his weird hidden-camera video for “Formidable":
“People thought that I was really drunk in the street. On the Internet [before the video came out], people were like, ‘Have you seen Stromae? Is he okay?’ I was surprised to see that there was so much humanity, actually. During filming, I saw 33 percent ignorance, 33 percent voyeurism, and 33 percent empathy or help. Before shooting the video, I was expecting that people would want me to be that drunk, really sad. Actually, nobody wanted me to be like that. They were so supportive.”
On his Wes Anderson fandom:
“I love how Wes Anderson shows what nonperfect people we are. Nobody is perfect in his stories. The shots are really perfect and symmetric, but nothing is perfect in the story, you know?”
On realizing that the star machine can be fleeting:
“I’m not so pretentious. I’m pretentious of course to sing in front of so many people like that, but not in this way. I don’t want to be a voice of a generation. I’m almost 30 and I’m just singing, that’s all. But sometimes you can think that maybe you are becoming like a genius or something, and it’s dangerous. But actually, you are just like everybody else, just trying to tell stories and that’s all. And this time, you have the attention and the support of the people, but maybe the next time you won’t have this kind of vision that people understand or want to listen to.”
Here are a couple Stromae jams for you to enjoy this weekend:
Here's his whole sophomore album, Racine Carrée: