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Text by FRANCE 24

Latest update : 2014-02-15

"Formidable"! The title of Belgian musician Stromae’s hit song sums up the success of this young artist, who picked up three awards at the Victoires de la Musique, the French equivalent of the Grammys.

Other winners included French legends Vanessa Paradis and Johnny Hallyday, but it was the Belgian artist of Rwandan origin who won best album for "Racine carrée" at the 29th edition of the awards held in Paris’s Zénith Theatre on Friday.

Vanessa Paradis, best know internationally as the face of Chanel, being the ex-partner of Hollywood star Johnny Depp, and for French pop classics such as ‘Joe Le Taxi’, was on hand to accept the prize for best female artist 24 years after first winning the award.

She is the only woman to have won the prize three times. Only one male artist, Alain Bashung, has achieved that honour before.

Veteran rocker Johnny Hallyday was not present to pick up his best song award, but he thanked his fans via Twitter.

Another notable absence was that of French duo Daft Punk, who won big at the American Grammys but kept away from the French awards.

Stromae, who won best album, male artist of the year, and best music video for “Formidable”, took the stage of the famous Zénith Theatre wearing his habitual bow tie and pastel suit.

“One doesn't play music to achieve success," he told the Zénith crowd. "But if it brings success as well, then so much the better!"

Belgian artist Stromae's "Formidable"

The making of a maestro

Paul Van Haver, 28, best known by his stage name Stromae, was born in a Brussels suburb to a Flemish mother and a Rwandan father. His father soon left the family and returned to Rwanda, where he was later killed in the 1994 genocide.

Van Haver discovered rap as a teenager and went on to write for several well-known artists, including Anggun.

In the 1990s, Van Haver was swept up in the eurodance craze, which had a thriving scene in Belgium.

In 2011, he released his first album ("Cheese") under the pseudonym Stromae. His nom-de-plume is the inversion of the syllables of maestro, a way of creating words that stems from "verlan", a Francophone slang born out of the gritty Parisian suburbs.

His biggest hit, “Alors on danse” (“So we dance”), is about dancing to forget the economic crisis, desperation, heartbreaks and death. In the music video, Stromae lurches around, bleary-eyed, after drowning his sorrows in both dance and drink.

The song saw unprecedented success and was even remixed by Kanye West.

On stage, Stromae's unique style makes him instantly recognisable. He wears knee socks and printed shirts and likes to incarnate different characters. He is impossibly lanky. His ears stick out. His eyes are enormous, green and unsettling.

“It’s the entire Stromae package that makes him successful,” Olivier Nusse, the head of Stromae’s label (Mercury/Universal), was recetly quoted as saying.

His lyrics, which tackle difficult subjects like sickness and his father's disappearance, are nonetheless grimly humorous.

In the "Formidable" music video, the song's throbbing beat stops abruptly halfway as a visibly drunk Stromae stumbles through the city streets and bumps into several policemen. 

They ask if he's had a rough night and tell him they are big fans. Then, after this daydream-like parenthesis, the music starts up again.

(FRANCE 24 with AFP)


Date created : 2014-02-15