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Stromae - Multitude Music Album Reviews

Stromae - Multitude Music Album Reviews
With biting humor and striking intimacy, the Belgian pop singer’s adventurous third album examines how we humans care for one another—or don’t.

In the middle of a French TV news interview in January, TF1 journalist Anne-Claire Coudray asked Stromae whether music had helped him to transcend the solitude he sang about so frequently. A soft piano backing track started, and the Belgian pop star born Paul Van Haver swallowed and began to sing his new single, “L’enfer” (“Hell”), by way of response. You expected the camera to pan back, for Stromae to rise from his seat and join his usual extravagantly coiffed dancers on the studio stage, but no: He sat still and sang his mournful song about suicidal ideation while staring down the camera lens, visibly flinching at the massive ripping synths and choral chants.

Rascally pop stars have always enjoyed making mischief on the news—it’s a basic way of establishing the distance between you and the straight mainstream, as well as efficiently converting offense to publicity. But that wasn’t what Stromae seemed to be doing (though in Europe there was no shortage of the latter). In some ways, televised news was an oddly perfect stage for an artist who frequently sets lyrics about stark social issues—domestic abuse, economic precarity, cancer, colonialism—to euphoric, swarming dance-pop. His lyrics also often inhabit the headspace of shitty men, trying on their self-justification for size and unraveling it with glee and a journalistic eye for hypocrisy and weak logic. Coupled with his old-fashioned commitment to high-concept hijinks, Stromae is a delightfully improbable and inscrutable pop star. His ambition and ability to execute it appear undimmed by the nine years since he released his last album—a gap partially enforced by a debilitating physical reaction to anti-malarial medication and its psychological aftermath.

It’s telling that Stromae chose to perform “L’enfer” in this context when the lead single from his comeback album has a far newsier bent: Mixing elegant cavaquinho guitar with a synth line that squawks like pink elephants on parade, “Santé” (“Cheers”) pays tribute to essential workers in the pandemic—though in true Stromae style, it equally simmers with disgust at the hypocrites who toast their heroism while exploiting their humanity. This choice puts him in the crosshairs of his own unsparing lens on Multitude, his third and most personal album. And, yes, “most personal album” is a cliché, but if you come across any other new releases in which the author forecasts the quality of their day based on the quality of their morning shit (in translation: “I’ll be scrubbing endlessly” versus “no wiping needed”), please get in touch at the usual address.

That isn’t the only time Multitude takes an entertainingly scatalogical approach to intimacy. “C’est que du bonheur” (“Nothing But Joy”) characterizes Stromae’s affection for his young son—a love that he sings saved his life—in terms of diapers changed and vomit mopped, and predicts the inevitable moment when his grown-up kid will have his own kids and have to clean up granny and grandpa’s messes. Taking a sideways look at sincerity—or shittiness—risks collapsing the whole endeavor under the weight of irony, but Stromae’s slinky arrangements and actorly charisma are rich with charm. He sings “C’est que du bonheur!” with deranged euphoria, as if expiring from sleepless nights mid-sentence. The four-bar charango refrain is ticklish and light, although the tempo accelerates and stabilizes unpredictably—such are the vicissitudes of parental joy.

Stromae’s pugnacious 2013 hit “Papaoutai” explored the meaning of father figures (his Rwandan Tutsi father was killed in the country’s 1994 genocide) and familial inheritance. He deepens that interrogation on Multitude, reflecting his shoestring childhood travels with his mother across South America and Africa in rich instrumentation (the stringed Andean charango, Portuguese cavaquinho, and Chinese erhu; the Middle Eastern ney flute and woodwind zurna) and song structures that embrace the steady rhythms of folk musics rather than the battering Europop of his first two albums. At the same time, he’s said that using the two-stringed erhu was equally inspired by the music of Kung Fu Panda—a knowingly inauthentic reference that complicates those ideas. In the post-genre era, many artists have pulled global influences into their music (whether out of sincere admiration or a desire to game foreign markets) and many artists have ended up with indistinct soup at the end of it. Stromae delicately folds these sounds into the melodic percolations that glitter beneath each song and also plays on their individual characters: The erhu that weeps through the knocking chimes of “La solassitude” is as off-kilter as the titular portmanteau (Stromae translates it as “Loneweariness”) and brings real pathos to what might otherwise be a risible tale of a guy who goes through the motions in relationships without ever connecting.

That’s one of Stromae’s greatest skills as a songwriter, this ability to refract the wholeness of a person’s humanity through several, sometimes conflicting, perspectives. On Multitude, his primary theme is care—and how humans use and abuse one another as they seek comfort and turn a blind eye to inconvenient truths if it means getting what we want. He embodies these fables through a litany of rogues, often told with piercing humor: The cheating prick of “Mon amour” tries to justify his infidelities because deep down, “tu les aimes bien les connards” (“you’ve got a thing for bastards”), but he’s left stunned and insecure by rejection—wondering how big his rival’s dick is, and where his ex put his clean underpants. On “Santé,” those quickest to toast pandemic heroes are the ones throwing fits at service workers who don’t meet their impossible expectations. “Fils de joie” (“Son of a Hero”) tells three grimy stories of proprietorial relationships to a sex worker, as told by a client, a pimp, and a police officer, each spliced with affecting, proud cries of defense from her son. Stromae is not exempt, either: On “Déclaration,” he empathizes with his wife (designer Coralie Barbier) for having to bear kids and the mental load—he even subverts Simone de Beauvoir to sing “on naît pas misogyne, on le devient” (“one isn’t born misogynistic but can grow up to become so”)—but admits change might take time since the world benefits so richly from women’s labor. As he skewers societal complacency, he also mourns it with his regretful falsetto, the piercing zurna filigree, and a synth as slippery and pretty as the patterns that form on the surface of oil.

Evidently, this is quite subtle stuff (especially for non-French speakers) and fans of “Papaoutai” and Stromae’s 2010 breakthrough “Alors on danse” (“Now We Dance”) may miss his brazen talent for scaffolding EDM’s volcanic textures to sharp songwriting. But he deploys his trademark punchiness sharply here. There’s that cataclysmic peak in “L’enfer,” the daunting welcome committee at the gates of hell itself; the thrilling “Fils de joie” puckers a brisk string quartet (sampled from the Bridgerton soundtrack) with popped-bubble effects that offer a tart riposte to such courtly airs and graces. And opener “Invaincu” (“Undefeated”) is a fighter’s battle cry, a chest-puffed Stromae rapping vigorously about beating a disease that claimed several relatives, bolstered by gruff backing vocals and an exultant Bulgarian children’s choir. His sense of scale has become more nuanced and idiosyncratic, and more captivating for it.

More than on his 2010 debut Cheese or 2013’s Racine carrée, Stromae turns his distaste for hypocrisy and weak-mindedness on himself. It’s there in his unfiltered take on love for his kid, but also in his stark confrontations with his own pain. “L’enfer” is a devastating song about teetering on a mental-health precipice, yet he still negotiates his guilt for feeling that way and how he stubbornly resists consolation. Multitude ends with a two-parter, “Mauvaise journée” (“Bad Day”) and “Bonne journée” (“Good Day”), which contrast the outcomes of justifying one’s reality with glass-half-empty and glass-half-full attitudes to life (with the accompanying poop-based taxonomies). The former is elegant and laden with appealingly petulant ennui; the latter comes alive with deep bass, adrenaline-spiking trap percussion, and a melodically complex vocal part in which Stromae beseeches anyone listening to recognize the pitfalls of this sort of absolutist thinking. “Comme un idiot, fais les pas de la danse de la joie” (“Learn the steps and move like a fool to the dance of happiness”), he sings, chin up. Looking away—or seeing only what we want to see—is a surefire way to get left behind.

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About Wanni Arachchige Udara Madusanka Perera

Hey, I'm Perera! I will try to give you technology reviews(mobile,gadgets,smart watch & other technology things), Automobiles, News and entertainment for built up your knowledge.
Stromae - Multitude Music Album Reviews Stromae - Multitude Music Album Reviews Reviewed by Wanni Arachchige Udara Madusanka Perera on Wednesday, March 16, 2022 Rating: 5

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