After a hugely successful series of appearances at American music festival SXSW, yesterday Stromae opened an official account on Instagram. But those who hoped that he would use it to reveal a little bit more of his personal life can expect to be disappointed. True to form, the singer appears to be using his account to create publicity, apparently in preparation for the release of a music video for his song “Carmen.” Hidden in the flood of hashtags in each of his first two posts–some tongue-in-cheek, others promoting his current tour–lies the hashtag “Carmen.”
According to Gala, the illustrator of the first cartoon “selfies” posted on Stromae’s Instagram is Sylvain Chomet. He’s the French comic writer, animator and film director who created the Oscar-nominated full-length animated film The Triplets of Belleville. More recently, he also wrote and directed the 2013 comedy Attila Marcel. It was Emmanuel-Philibert de Savoie (@efsavoia on Twitter) who revealed that the animator is at work on Stromae’s next music video. Gala calls him “obviously well-informed on the projects of the singer and the director,” as he will be working with Chomet on an upcoming movie.
Sylvain Chomet animated video clip for Stromae… Next project our movie The Thousand Miles… Can’t… https://t.co/ets7XV8Tt5
— Emanuele Filiberto (@efsavoia) March 23, 2015
Always an artist who plays with multiple levels of meaning, Stromae’s promotion of his next video is dripping with irony. He’s flooding Instagram (not to mention his accounts on Facebook and Twitter) with hashtags promoting “Carmen” when the song itself is a jab at the dangers of social media. The song even explicitly mocks the hashtag concept, with the line, “Et à tous ceux qui vous like/
Les sourires en plastiques sont souvent des coups d’hashtag.” (“To all those who “like” you [on social media], plastic smiley-faces are often strikes of the hashtag.”) The lyrics create a pun on “coups d’hashtag” and “coups de hache” (swings of the axe). In other words, “likes” on social media are actually often superficial and ultimately destructive.
In an interview last April with Time Out magazine, Stromae said, “In the opera Carmen [composer Georges Bizet] compares a bird to love. In my remix of it, I’m comparing love to the blue bird of Twitter. Like, you fall in love only for 48 hours or something, and I talk about that in my song. I’m not so radical about Twitter, but I think it’s sometimes dangerous if you think that Twitter is real life.”
Riding the wave of SXSW buzz, breaking new artistic ground by collaborating with an innovative animator, and creatively using the Internet tools he simultaneously criticizes, Stromae comes out swinging in 2015. Coups de hache, indeed.
UPDATE March 29: To date, Stromae has placed 7 posts on Instagram. His posts and hashtags have gotten progressively more outrageously facetious, suggesting that he’s leading a self-important celebrity high life, when in fact that couldn’t be further from reality. (In interviews, Stromae repeatedly expresses his desire to keep his feet on the ground despite his increasing fame, calling success “a gift and a handicap.”) He’s not hanging with Madonna.
At the same time, he’s removed the #Carmen hashtag from all his Instagram posts. He clearly wants to take the focus off his upcoming video and turn the focus back on the public. The reactions to his social media accounts have become the point. As he emphasized in a recent interview, “My job is just to be a mirror. Like a director. Just take a picture or something, and say, ‘OK, we are like this.’ Or, ‘I decided to show us like this. Do you agree?’ “
Before the video for “Formidable” was released, the Internet was abuzz with cell phone videos taken by onlookers during the filming and comments on the artist’s state of mind. Stromae has again hit on a brilliantly creative way–this time, using satire–to make us take a hard look at the role of social media, popular culture, celebrity, and fandom in our lives.