I was thoroughly fooled by Stromae’s video for «Formidable» the first time I saw it. My Paris-born brother introduced me to his work and played me some of his other videos as well. I found Stromae to be very intelligent, beautiful, meticulous and his music made me want to dance. However, I was slightly wary of his polished music videos, so I put him in a brightly colored cardboard box. From the Norient book Seismographic Sounds (see and order here).
When I finally saw «Formidable» I found my preconceived notions shattered: Stromae soaked this box I had made for his art into papier mâché. I was no longer just a mere fan, I became his air-conditioner.  To pull off such a video is brave, not to say beyond genius. I initially thought the video was made up of candid CCTV and pedestrian phone footage until Stromae smiled at the end and skipped off through the alley. I had to watch it several times to notice planted camera people such as the man in the hood.
A Sub-Saharan Perspective
In «Formidable» Stromae is singing about a newly severed relationship and I feel he is being both truthful and sarcastic. Stromae says his ex made his life wonderful because he was miserable before their relationship, but once his life became «wonderful» he found a way to make himself miserable again. Stromae has a way of making poetry out of the «common John’s» life such that the masses quickly and easily identify with his stories. In the video he seems very alone, wet, cold and distraught in a very public European space. There is nothing lonelier than that. Writing this article made me wonder whether such a situation could be replicated in sub-Saharan Africa and I have reached a conclusion that it would be nearly impossible because:
1. Stromae would not be cold at thirty degrees Celsius.
2. When it rains here the drops are so huge he would be pelted to the ground if he didn’t seek cover.
3. Everybody would come for selfies, not just rare approaches by a concerned citizen or fan.
4. Shelter, food, laughter or even a new girlfriend or two would have been forced on him right there.
5. A driver would have gotten out of the car and abused him, calling him an AIDS patient or weed smoker, if he didn’t hit him with his car first.
6. A Gypsy from Chad would come and beg him for food more persistently than usual, because he looks like one of them, until he realizes he is better off than his new semblant friend.
7. The police would have asked him for money and arrested him if he didn’t sort them out.
I am sure there are more reasons. I don’t deny that people do get lonely here, it’s just a bit harder to do so. Off to watch some of Stromae’s videos I seem to have missed.
This text was published first in the second Norient book Seismographic Sounds.