Belgian musician Stromae makes the most of his cosmopolitan background, talent, and creative communicative flair to capture attention, initially using only modest technical means. This track, with an influential aesthetic, has been a huge hit in the Francophone world, along with several other songs of his.

His video for a song, Formidable, that was number one in France had him pretending to be drunk and broken hearted in Brussels and getting the actual assistance of friendly cops and others who were fans of his. It has had even more views, and has English subtitles. The song has a key line that is clever in French, which translates into English into the rather simpler ‘you were wonderful, I was pathetic’ (formidable vs fort minable; see here for further details of the lyrics and video.  He has done several filmed performances of the song in public spaces, including in Montreal, that in turn went viral.

In a nicely ironic (perhaps post) post-modern vein he playfully deconstructs his own songs, and at least feigns the ease with which music can be created with a Mac and a little keyboard in a series of ‘lessons’ on music-making that can all be found on youtube. Here is one, more polished, featuring the above song “tous les mêmes” (‘you’re all the same’), with English subtitles, and through which the song and his persona in the official video come to make more sense. He plays both male and female roles in an argument between lovers.

In this lesson he playfully assembles one of his greatest hits ‘Alors on dance’ in front of a small audience using his Mac (only in French but watch it anyway). His charm is well on display.

If interested here is the official video of the song and there is also a nice version with him performing with Moroccan musicians on traditional Arab instruments in Marrakesh, introduced by a popular French comedian he collaborates with.

Stromae’s irreverence coupled with joie de vivre has proven infectious for audiences and contrasts with the pretentiousness of some of the mainstream popular music industry. Corporate communications campaigns that centre on shareable content have to show at least something of the talent, effective execution and modesty that artists like Stromae have led audiences to expect.

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About Christopher Pokarier

australian professor of business & governance @ waseda university in tokyo researching cultural industries, economic nationality & borders, university internationalisation

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