“If you’ve never heard the Europop smash ‘Racine Carrée,’ get to Spotify right away. Meet its maker, the Belgian-Rawandan superstar Stromae.” writes Miles Marshall Lewis for Ebony magazine.
Lewis, an American pop culture critic and music journalist, who is also a former Parisian expatriate, interviewed Stromae for Ebony, one of America’s oldest and most successful magazines for the African-American market.
Lewis grew up in the Bronx and has lived in London and Paris and once wrote for the French edition of Rolling Stone. His familiarity with the music world on both sides of the Atlantic, as well as his comfort level with French, lend an extra dimension to this article that isn’t seen in most American press. While the bulk of the interview appears to have been conducted in English, the article also includes passages apparently spoken by Stromae in his native French, which are quoted directly and followed by English translations. Having access to both languages allows Stromae to communicate in a more nuanced fashion than he otherwise would with a monolingual American journalist.
Calling the Belgian artist “a 21st century Serge Gainsbourg for diehard American music lovers who can’t even understand French,” Lewis provides a little background info before leading into his questions for Stromae.
If hiphop was so influential for him, why did he abandon his hiphop career? ” ‘It’s an important school for me, hiphop music, and still today. But I had this problem, the meaning problem of hiphop music. In the music that we know in Europe is mostly this kind of bling-bling hiphop, with naked women and limousines and stuff. And even if I was a big fan of the rhythm, the groove, I had a problem with the meaning. So all the time, I was criticizing this style. So my manager said to me, ‘OK, why are you all the time criticizing the music and talking about only the music? If you are not happy actually, just change.’ [laughter] That’s how ‘Alors On Danse’ was born. My manager told me, ‘Why don’t you talk about real life?’ And finally I thought ‘why not?’ and finally made it ‘Alors On Danse.’ “
Stromae’s dislike of clichés extends to radio as well. He expresses his opinion that there’s not enough diversity on European radio, and that’s why he appreciates FM Brussel (listen to FM Brussel live by clicking on the link).
“When I’m in Brussels, I used to listen to FM Brussels, which is a small radio [station] in Brussels. But it’s so interesting to listen, ’cause la programmation it’s like, you can listen to, for example, the Black Eyed Peas, because they are a fan of Black Eyed Peas. It’s not about snobbism, like, ‘It’s too famous, so we don’t want to play it.’ It’s more clever. Just: you’re a fan of, and it’s a good track whatever the success it has, it’s just a good track. And that’s the reason why I listen to this radio.
I can discover something from Brazil which is not really famous at all, but at the same, I can listen to a Rick Ross track, because the groove is just magnifique. I prefer this kind of radio actually.”