Since 2015, Stromae has been busy. He launched five clothing collections and collaborated on videos for Yael Naïm (Coward), Dua Lipa (IDGAF) and Billie Eilish (Hostage) under the Mosaert label. He created the label in 2009, together with Luc Van Haver and stylist Coralie Barbier for artistic creation. It operates in the fields of fashion, audiovisual media and, of course, music. When his Brussels studio was completed in 2018, his life changed pace to that of a craftsman returning to his workshop for a third album, Multitude.
You don’t need to dig deep into descriptions of suffering to recognize the paradoxical fruitfulness of certain negative experiences. Multitude comes after a period during which Stromae’s body slowed down drastically, forcing him to take a hiatus from the stage. With it came enforced furlough and its silver linings: settling down, leading a more relaxed, structured life, closer to family, making work exciting again, expanding his sources of inspiration and, most of all, making what he went through worth it by reinvesting the dividends of this challenging phase into the core of new songs. Far from any self-centered self-pity, Stromae took advantage of this time in his life to identify more closely with others, putting himself in the shoes of characters he feels sympathy for (in the etymological meaning “suffering with”). By doing so, he gives the title Multitude a deep resonance, the same one that Walt Whitman conveys in his poem, of which Stromae could take up the opening: “I am large, I contain multitudes, I am of every hue and caste, of every rank and religion.”
With a Rwandan father that he did not see often and a Flemish mother who single-handedly ran a household of six, Stromae was born Paul Van Haver in 1985 in Brussels. He grew up with this sometimes blurry and chaotic double identity, a relationship to himself and others that he learned to soothe through music. An innate alchemist of opposites, he found the magic formula for mixing rap, afrobeat and francophone lyrics without offending the tradition tied to one or corrupting the dance DNA that the others share. We know what came next. The albums Cheese (2010) and Racine Carrée (2013) spearheaded by the titles Alors On Danse, Papaoutai and Formidable exceeded all expectations, filled concert venues and took over dancefloors: 4 million albums were sold (including 3.5 million physical sales). Stromae received countless awards, including four Victoires de la Musique, four NRJ Awards, one MTV Award, and achieved historical feats like filling the prestigious Madison Square Garden in New York. To date, his discography has about 6.5 billion streams worldwide. A multitude, not far off from the number of people making up humanity, which is concealing another type of multitude…
Among his childhood memories, the ones that he particularly cherishes are family travels to far-away countries. Mali, Peru, Bolivia, Argentina… his mother had a pronounced taste for otherness, going so far as to drag her children along with her backpacking off beaten paths and tourist routes. We had previously caught a glimpse of Stromae’s taste for sounds which he seemed to have become sensitive to on the road, such as the cavaquinho in Avé Cesaria. Multitude is Stromae’s other way of exploring the world, while staying firmly attached to his roots.