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.