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Stromae’s “Papaoutai”

Faites Attention! We (and about 2 and half million other people) may just have found our song of the summer: Stromae’s “Papaoutai.”  It’s been three years since “Alors on Danse,” the young Belgian’s enormously successful debut single, and it seems hard to deny that  Stromae has another major hit on his hands– this time an incredible fusion of techno and pop, laced with a haunting burst of soukous guitars.

Unlike his earlier songs, which have stayed within a fairly traditional palate for European pop, “Papaoutai”goes in different musical direction.  While the strong electronic/techno feel is maintained  by the heavy bass and swooping synths, the percussion swings the four on the floor, matching the swirl of the guitars that provide a distinctly Congolese flavor to the record, especially at the point in which the bass drops out and you hear voice and electric guitar alone.

Keeping his previous record of fantastic visuals, the video that accompanies the “Papaoutai” is also a standout. Set in a retro nightmarish utopia (think Pleasantville or for our Francophiles out there, Mon Oncle), the video is the story of a young boy who is desperately searching for his father. Stromae plays the boy’s father in the video and is simply a mannequin, posing to fit the role, but entirely absent in spirit. Just as the song blends a number of genres into one, the accompanying video pulls from a colorful variety of African and Western dance traditions. Irish step-dance, ballet, break-dance, hip-hop, modern, and contemporary urban african styles are all used to stunning effect in a series of back and forth duets between various sets of child and parent dance teams. After hearing (and seeing!) this exciting new approach from Stromae, we only hope he continues to incorporate African sounds, both fresh and traditional into his music.

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  • Yeva

    This video is really sad… it just made me cry. Does it it mean that the little boy has no father? Or he has a father but he’s very busy or not very responsive and caring to play with his son?… Anyways, it’s really sad…

  • Stromae Fan

    Stromae is actualy not part Congoleze. He is part Rwandan with grandfather from Somalia and part Belgian.

  • doudiss

    To Yeva. yes indeed its a very sad song and the little boy is at lost when everyone around him is forming a happy family, he looks for an absent father. No one to taught him how to dance. No father figure. Great great song and very intelligent clip

  • UncleNat

    Yeva – I think the video and song operate on two levels. One is universal, for all kids with “absent” fathers; but the other is deeply personal, as his father went back to Rwanda when Stromae was very young and then died in the Rwandan genocide.
    It’s an incredibly powerful song anyway, but especially in light of that fact. He’s made reference to the influence of Jacques Brel, and the intensely personal lyrics here (as well as in his second single off the new album, Formidable) really back that up.

  • sokolov

    I absolutely love this song… so melancholy and so pretty… can anyone tell me what percussion he is using between 1:30 and 1:40 something up to the second chorus

  • Balafa Konctadina

    can you please tell me whats the story of this song?

    • Shaina

      Well, many believe it has to do with the absence of Stromae’s own father because he was killed in the Rowanden Genacide. But Stromae has clearly stated he doesn’t sing about personal stuff. So it is just about how fathers who are present physically in their children’s lives, but not emotionally.

  • poepoe

    Who is the boy in the videoclip (his real name)? Does anybody know him? HE’s SO talented!

    • LinuxMage

      Karl Ruben Noel, is the boy’s name.

  • franko

    mon oncle, tati’s greatest but most unwatchable film in my experience…

  • flavia santos

    The video itself portrays stromae’s feelings,it actually happen to him and it shows the relationship between him and his father when he was alive (his father died on 1994) the video portrays The music video accompanying the release of “Papaoutai” was directed by Raf Reyntjens and released on YouTube on June 6, 2013 at a total length of three minutes and fifty-two seconds. The video shows a young boy trying to interact with his unresponsive father (played by Stromae), who sits motionless, his expression and body resembling that of a mannequin, while outside, other fathers and sons dance together. In the end, the son joins Stromae on the sofa, assuming a rigid, lifeless position identical to his father’s. It refers to the absence of Stromae’s father, who was killed in the 1994 Rwandan Genocide.[2] The video has received around 200 million views.[3]
    In the video, the boy’s father is represented as a lifeless mannequin, so he is present physically, but not emotionally. As the boy looks outside, he sees that the other parents always do something together with their sons, while his remains motionless. The boy reproaches his father with the words of the song about how a parent should raise their son, and the boy then works to involve his father in dancing, like the parent-son couples he had seen before. First, the boy dances at home in front of the father; then, both of them are seen dancing in the square, but that vision is actually just an imagination of the boy, who in reality is dancing alone while his father stays motionless in the car. In the end, the boy surrenders and also becomes an empty mannequin like his father, as that is the only thing his father has taught him. Ceasare “Tight Eyez” Willis, one of the creators of Krumping, appears in the music video as a parent dancing together with his son.

  • OrrPenn18

    Can anyone tell me the female dancers names?