Kirsten Halling, Associate Professor of French, Wright State University
Pascale Abadie, Associate Professor of French, Wright State University
It began as a crazy idea during the weekly French conversation club last summer: “Stromae’s coming to the US, this fall. Let’s go see him!” Before long, tickets were bought, hotel rooms reserved, travel plans to Chicago made, and the dream had become a reality. Stromae, the world’s biggest Francophone (French speaking) musician, plays to full houses all over the world, and here was a chance to see him in a small venue in Chicago.
Despite the fact that Stromae sings only in French, his music has a universal appeal that crosses language barriers. His current tour includes many non-French speaking countries, and the twelve cities on the US portion of the tour are sold out to enthusiastic crowds of American and international concertgoers eager to see the phenomenon in person. Some English speakers know Stromae through the Kanye West remix of “Alors on danse,” and others may have heard the remix of “Papaoutai” by the popular a cappella group Pentatonix and violinist Lindsey Stirling.
While waiting for the concert to begin, the WSU group met Belgians, French, Senegalese, Rwandan and Canadian fans, along with a large number of Americans who, like them, had discovered Stromae (an anagram of maestro) in their French classes. After being subjected to warm-up performer who played loud, tuneless electronic “music” for over an hour, the crowd was electrified when Stromae burst onto the stage, beginning his show with “Ta Fête,” the fight song he wrote for the Belgian national soccer team. For the next ninety minutes, Stromae sang and danced to hit after hit from his most recent album “Racine Carrée,” along with a couple from his earlier album “Cheese.” The concert was enhanced by costume changes, routines from video clips, and a spectacular light show featuring an animated caricature of the singer. The exuberant audience sang along with all of the songs, mixing French, Belgian and American accented French to the French star’s obvious delight, with the superstar interacting in a charming combination of French and pretty decent English. The concert ended with an a cappella version of his “Tous les memes,” a song about gender stereotypes, performed with his musicians and backup singers, using one microphone. The previously vocal audience remained silent throughout the rendition, showing respect and
admiration for the group’s perfect harmony and warm humor.
After the concert, the younger members of the WSU group had the resilience and persistence to stand in line and wait for Stromae for an hour while their exhausted professors waited for them in the car. The superstar did not disappoint: the students (Jasmine Higgins and Tasha Fox) and alum (Kayla Schaub) were gratified by a photo op and brief conversation (en français!) with the gracious Belgian-Rwandan. Vive le français!