Posted in Music

Sound Bites: Apr 1, 2017

N’est pas?

Today’s “Sound Bites” is quite unlike most others that I’ve written up. The point of these is usually to give the fine readers something to spice up their iTunes playlist with. There is no focus other than to empty out my Chrome bookmarks of a few songs that I’ve been storing.

Today I have a more specific goal. I will be doing an artist feature. I will be doing a sort of survey of a bunch of songs by a single artist. Today’s artist is a certain European artist who came highly recommended by a coworker of mine. As skeptical as I am of… well, just about everything, I still felt I should give it a chance. And I was somewhere between pleasantly surprised and deeply impressed.

The artist who will be the focus of today’s “Sound Bites” is Stromae. While quite popular in Europe, I must confess that I hadn’t heard of him until just a few weeks ago. His music can probably best be described as a synthesis of exotic French melodic rap with good ol’ Euro-synth dance music. However, that description doesn’t really do justice to the spectacle of Stromae. His artistry comes in the way he uses the French language to craft meaningful and deep lyrics without delving into pretension. His music is universal in it’s message, to the point where even despite my rudimentary knowledge of French (plus some handy closed captions here and there), the point of each song was loud and clear. It helps that along with his music, his music videos are extremely well-crafted.

Well, I can rave forever, but why don’t I start giving you something to chew on?

1. Tous les mêmes (Racine Carrée)

When my friend recommended that I listen to a guy called Stromae, I looked him up and his face…. well, it didn’t give me much hope. The guy looked like a cheerful, skinny, effeminate weirdo. What kind of music could this guy make? Am I gonna get some Bjorn stuff? C’mon.

And then I saw “Tous les memes”. And I heard his voice. And I was floored.

The thing that struck me the most was how much attitude it had. From his picture, I had imagined a voice, but it was way off the mark. Stromae’s control, range and depth of vocal tones is incredible. My surprise quickly turned in awe and appreciation, as I was happy to be proven wrong.

The next song up is the song that the person who recommended Stromae to me says is her favorite. The video ended up being viral for a time, at least in Europe. You know what they say about art imitating life? This is an example of that boundary between the 2 being made very thin.

2. Formidable (Racine Carrée)

Ostensibly a drunken rampage by a strung out pop star who drank too much the night before, this bizarre performance art/April Fool’s Joke played upon Europe was only one part of Stromae’s Formidable. Essentially, it’s a break up song. However, as those of you who are familiar with American pop hits these days, the break up song has been done to death. It is standard fare that has, over the years, become formulaic and devoid of the emotion that made it so meaningful.

What Stromae is able to do is string together a tale through bits and pieces as told in the voice of the one experiencing it, and the performance and it’s execution play a part in the song. It isn’t just key words and phrases like, “Don’t ever leave me”, or “We were meant to be together” and such. There is a passion in the earnestness and the honesty. Overall, he finds a way to take the old formula and make it somehow extremely original.

For this next song, we have a song that that shows the range of Stromae’s imagination breaking outside of just music.

3. Papaoutai (Racine Carrée)

While in Formidable Stromae is able to use language, deception and committed performance to craft his art, Papaoutai uses dance and choreography to tell a story. And the result is just amazing. The styles of the dance, mixed with the costumes and the set direction and artistry is just amazing in its effectiveness. Not much more I can say, just watch it for yourself.

For the last tune, we have my favorite of Stromae’s.

4. Alors On Dance (Cheese)

Considered by many as the song that made people notice him, Alors On Dance is, like many of Stromae’s songs, actually really depressing upon inspection. Essentially, this song presents a  fatalistic view of the world and life in the modern urban utopia, but wrapped in the trappings of a techno dance number.  The juxtaposition is simple and amazing, and I love it.

Well, that’s all for now. I hope I’ve introduced you to some great music. Thanks for reading and have a great day.

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