Friday, February 4th, 2022

Stromae – L’enfer

The score, however, is paradis.


Oliver Maier: Nowadays it’s hard not to associate Stromae with his breakout years, and perhaps just as tricky to see where he fits in today. On the one hand the sombre, politically-conscious contemplations of his previous output are now the norm in a great deal of pop music; on the other, the genres he outfitted them with feel conversely outdated, primarily styles of dance music that curdled as the 10s lurched onwards. His comeback sounds a bit like the boutique version of an Imagine Dragons single, maximal and theatrical but also impressively neat. It may well just be my poor French comprehension making this sound more artful than it strictly deserves, but there is something to the earnest glumness of Stromae’s delivery that continues to transcend language.

Edward Okulicz: The drama in the music of “L’enfer” is so real, so natural, that it’s obvious that the subject matter is weighty even if you don’t speak French. It sounds like a man, wishing to be alone with his thoughts being mocked by a chorus, unable to even relax into gloom. All the sounds are beautiful, but arrayed in a way that is discomforting and confronting, fitting for a song about suicidal thoughts. It’s as brave as it is refined. 

Alfred Soto: Even at his quietest Stromae has a dramatic flair that turns “L’enfer” into a monologue for a musical, hence my faint questioning of its sincerity.

Tim de Reuse: The raw songwriting craft of the lyrics is impressive — what luck that the terms “suicidal thoughts,” “pride,” “hell,” and the verb “to silence” all rhyme perfectly in French, huh? I was all ready to dismiss this on the grounds of the conflict between its subject matter and its incredibly expensive sound-design production (My policy: no truly desperate thought I have ever had has felt like it was recorded on anything more hi-fi than a laptop mic) but the last few lines betray a frustration that is more genuine than anything that comes before. A beloved international electro-pop star thrashing about in the mirror in front of a chanting choir, blaming himself (or perhaps his audience)? Yeah, that’s a sharp image. That feels genuine.

Katherine St Asaph: Pensive and haunting until it red-ring-of-deaths into an inferno. Reminds me of Jay-Jay Johanson’s music when he still remembered what drama was.

Ian Mathers: “You can’t think your way out of a thinking problem” is the kind of thing that sounds like some sort of bloodless, dispassionate analysis, but…. it’s really, really not.

Nortey Dowuona: One of the great things about listening to artists outside the US who you have no reestablished relationship is that there is no need to add vague justifications for otherwise underwhelming music. (Hello, Drake and J. Cole fans.) Stromae, having recently returned from a long hiatus, has returned with a newly built avalanche of hailstorm synths and thunderstorm strings pressing the listener agains the granite drums, the tiptoeing piano melody pressing against your chest protecting you, a chorus of your ancestors surround you. and as they cry out, Stromae struggles, his fears and hatreds pressing the heat to your head like a hairdresser. He struggles to pull it away, his warm and monk-esque voice masking the guilt and anguish he feels, your ancestors pressing closer to you and pulling him away until you are alone, only their voice telling you, telling you, you are worth it, you deserve to live.

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