John Lennon crooned back in 1980, “It’ll be just like starting over.” Stromae’s already released nearly 30 online “lesson” videos. So why is his latest, released today, called Lesson #1? As Stromae works to build an audience in the US, a nation that’s traditionally less-than-welcoming to “foreign” acts that don’t sing in English, “(Just Like) Starting Over” could be his theme song. Maybe that’s why his new YouTube video, published today by Pitchfork TV, is called “Lesson #1 – Papaoutai in NYC.” There’s still the original Leçon n°1 “Up saw liz”, published over six years ago. But when Stromae’s in America, it’s as if the calendar resets. In the US, he’s starting over.
Gone are those screaming European stadium crowds.
Gone are those hyperbolic “Stromae Conquers America” headlines that the European press loves to trumpet.
All those European awards ceremonies are behind him.
Never mind those celebrity endorsements from the likes of Lorde, will.i.am, and Madonna.
No, Stromae’s starting over in America, and he doesn’t care who knows it. In America, he’s just a guy toting a keyboard in a rolling suitcase. He sets himself up to perform in a subway station in front of a handful of snickering guys in hoodies. He trips over his English on camera. He hawks tickets for his Madison Square Garden show, wearing a sandwich board on the street while passing pedestrians studiously ignore him. (Scrawled in red across the sandwich board are the words “ASK ME ABOUT MADONNA.”)
Filmed on location in New York during a break from his spring tour last March and April, the video includes a cameo appearance by Frenchman Jérôme Jarre at 2:50.
The video was directed by Jérôme Guiot, who talks about the process behind the “Stromae Takes America” series in an interview you can read here.
Pitchfork also published an article on their website indicating that Stromae plans to release a “series” of “lesson” videos filmed in various US cities. Stromae and his musicians were filming in front of the venue in full “Ave Cesaria” costume before the concert in Oakland last April 10. But two isn’t a series, so even more surprises must be in store–stay tuned!
Still, despite his self-deprecating humor, Stromae won’t be able to play the underdog much longer. His shows this month in Atlanta, Washington, and Boston are sold out, and Madison Square Garden, where he will become the first Francophone artist ever to headline the venue, is well on its way. Help a poor street musician out: find tickets here.