Belgian people notoriously like very little other than their signature french fries, but Rwandan-Flemish hip-hop/EDM/pop singer Paul Van Haver, aka Stromae, has found a place in their hearts as a figurehead for artsy millennial potential. Stromae was already topping European charts after the 2009 release of “Alors on danse” but won over hearts stateside at Coachella 2015. Concertgoers were blown away by his stage presence in a performance that transcended the language barrier (Stromae sings almost exclusively in French). A surprise appearance by Kanye West during his Weekend 2 set certainly didn’t hurt his street cred.
Hand-picked by Lorde to appear on the last Hunger Games soundtrack, Stromae has entered the ranks of contemporary European cool, alongside acts like CHVRCHES and Charli XCX. The 30-year-old is an artist in the purest sense. He has a fashion line where you can snag his signature vibrant prints. He’s participated in GIF-illustrated viral commentaries on social media. His unusually socially conscious videos are works of art unto themselves, demonstrating feats of cinematography, animation, and costuming. Check out our five favorites below, followed by our exclusive Lucky 7 interview. And don’t forget to catch Stromae on tour!
1. “Carmen” is a sweet song about the dark side of social media. Watch animated Stromae and his pet blue Twitter logo lose it to the web.
2. “Papaoutai,” which literally translates to “Dad, where are you?” depicts the experience of having an absent father through some powerful prop styling. The song was inspired by the loss of Stromae’s own father in Rwandan Genocide.
3. “Tou Les Mêmes” is a brilliantly choreographed exploration of gender stereotypes.
4. “Formidable” is a social experiment in which hidden cameras capture Stromae apparently drunk in the streets of Brussels. The video’s release was preceded by several amateur captures of the scene.
5. “Ta Fête” was the official song for the Belgian football selection at the 2014 World Cup. The stylized dystopian aesthetic is itself a work of art.
What is the greatest song of all time?
“Chan Chan” from Buena Vista Social Club.
If you were on death row, what would you want your last meal to be?
My last meal? I think spaghetti bolognese. It has to be a family meal. Something that makes you feel close to your mother and your family and everybody.
What movie scared you the most when you were a kid?
The Ring. With the girl. I hate horror movies. It was the American version. I couldn’t sleep in the night after. Ridiculous, but, yeah. For me a movie is like something really real. After a movie I’m like for three hours completely, and I have to think about it. It’s like it’s real life, it’s a reflection on your real life.
What was your first car?
I don’t know if you know it because it’s a European brand, it’s a Citroën. Do you know Citroën? It’s like the smallest one. I received that from the grandfather of a friend of mine. I did a crash, just before an exam or something. I was too late and I was like… Just a crunch.
Who’s your celebrity crush?
Can I choose Cesaria Evora? Do you know her? She was a Cape Verdean singer. Like old time, really humble and just one of my favorite divas. Humble, simple, human.
What’s your biggest pet peeve?
Lies. It’s difficult for me to lie actually. That’s difficult for me and I hate when people… it’s so easy when you just tell the truth. But of course sometimes it’s difficult when you tell the truth as well. But yeah. That’s my biggest problem.
What’s the biggest lie you’ve ever told?
The biggest one. Good question. I don’t know if I can tell it. I was really young. I’m sorry for this. But actually when I was really young I didn’t want to go — my room was on the third floor and the toilet was on the first floor. So I used to pee on the wall of my room. Completely dirty. But I used to pee on the wall of my room. One day my sister said you’re peeing on your wall! And I said “I know that you smoke and I will tell!” Ridiculous. It’s a really ridiculous story. I’ve never told that to anyone.