words by Jayda
Stromae fans, we’re back! After an 8 year hiatus, we finally have Stromae in all of his glory back. The first time I heard the album I felt like I went on a journey with the artist, which is a rare feeling in a single-driven era of music, and one that is sorely missed.
A few facts before we begin, Stromae is a Belgian artist that creates songs in French. His latest album, Multitude covers topics such as misogyny, relationship struggles, and mental health. I would categorize this album as experimental, world, and EDM.
Disclaimer: I do not speak French, I listened to the album and evaluated it by melody, production, and innovation. Everything I discuss about the lyrics relied heavily on translation, so there is some nuance that is bound to be missing. Listening to songs in your non-native language while reading the lyrics is super therapeutic. I would recommend trying it if you haven’t already! (maybe even while you stream this album).
Invaincu – The opening number evokes a floating feeling, that makes the listener feel as if they’re watching the world from a bird’s eye view. The rhythm comes in eventually to ground the listener, and it is closed out by grand-sounding percussion. This was the most cinematic track, it felt like an opening to a movie. Definitely a grand entrance for stories of mundane, yet powerful situations.
Sante – The lead single from this work, if you’ve been paying attention to the Late Night Show with Jimmy Fallon or SNL you may have seen it performed live. The stabby synth accompanied by punchy kicks and claps create an addictive chorus with almost no lyrics. True to Stromae’s style, vamping and electronic dance elements are the core of this downtempo pop song.
La solassitude – True to its name, La solassitude or “loneliness” takes a more somber turn. So far, the songs have been awe-inspiring and bouncy. We finally get a full chorus melody sung by Stromae’s breathy vocals, and verses accompanied by his signature rap cadence. A string instrument that follows the chorus melody closes the song on a bittersweet note.
Fils de joie – Strings open this song, making it feel cohesive with the last. Instead of a sobbing string melody, this one is erratic and somewhat unnerving thanks to the tremolo and reverse effects during sections of the song. There’s a tension bubbling, which lightly opens up to chords on an instrument that sounds like a distorted organ.
I would have liked the concept to be a little stronger, when I heard the creepy elements of the track I expected a little more rage or passion in Stromae’s voice. Maybe even a larger development in the song, it felt like the story was dragging on and there wasn’t an epic “mic drop” moment.
L’enfer – By far my favorite song on this album. The chorus of voices paired with the glitch effect gives me chills every time; there is something so purely human and so desperate in the melody that makes me feel. This type of drop or meltdown moment was what I was expecting on Fils de joie, so all is forgiven. (But seriously, if you listen to nothing else, listen to this song!).
C’est que du bonheur – For a track named “this is happiness” I’m not sure what I was expecting. The title could insinuate pessimism, but the track itself is pretty upbeat. Even then, I wouldn’t describe the mood of the track as being “happy” because it feels like there’s some tension. During the chorus the vocals and the whistling sound as if they’re pretending to be happy, carrying on the facade of optimism.
Pas vraiment – This track feels similar to some sort of dream, it’s not necessarily chaotic but the sonic landscape depicts an odd land that you’re lost in. However, there’s a contentedness to the unfamiliarity. It’s almost as if you can’t do anything but accept the world for what it is and just vibe to the music. The title, “Not really” also made me think that maybe Stromae is depicting that the world is “not really” what it seems. So far, in each track, there has been a distinctive “world” instrument carrying the melody.
Riez – Although Stromae repeats “Riez” meaning “laugh” during the chorus, it isn’t encouraging. It’s almost as if he’s daring you to laugh as he describes his dreams (which may or may not be real). Even without understanding the lyrics the tone is clear, he’s saddened by the disbelief in his dreams but will continue on regardless and prove the world wrong. I was waiting for the world instrument to decorate the melody, and it reliably arrived. This track features a
Mon Amour – Ah yes, a song about cheating. Stromae perfectly tells the story of a man who had many lovers but decided to settle down and then cheated on the one who was supposed to be his only love. He exposes his own insecurity and hurt after his love leaves rather than being considerate towards his partner; the whole song makes for a very satirical read. Without being aware of the lyrics, I thought the song was a sweet, upbeat love song about being dedicated to a lover. It has a slow groove with high-pitched string instruments that make it sonically less dark than the other songs.
Declaration – Stromae has always been known for touching on taboo themes such as gender issues, and he doesn’t shy away from them in this body of work. This particular song has a few impactful lyrics (translated to English courtesy of Genius):
“Forgive me, we are not born misogynistic, we become it”
“Always obliged to like to give birth (always obliged to like to give birth)
The contraception that destroys your health (health, health, health)
Endometriosis, enchanted (endometriosis)”
Mauvaise journee and Bonne journee – These two separate songs close the album out. I decided to place them together since Stromae explained in an interview with Newsweek that they are linked. He stated that “the first song describes a bad mental health day spent painstakingly slogging through a routine drenched in misery. The next is a cheery emergence from the depressive episode, with a spring in each step revisited from the day before.” Twitter users were quick to make memes about the juxtaposition between the two. Mauvaise journée sounds similar to many of the songs on the album, with a slow but steady beat and horn instruments accentuating the plucked melodies. Bonne journée stands out, sounding nothing like many of the songs. It’s most comparable to the opening track and L’enfer because of the chorus of vocals and plucked melodies. Bonne journée reminds me the most of hip hop in terms of the rhythm, and Stromae finds a way to make it sound much more hopeful than the other tracks while using the same instruments. It feels as if you’ve woke up from a bad dream, like you have just overcome a tough night and the sun is finally rising. An excellent way to exit the journey of the album, bonne journée!