Why did Kanye West make a surprise appearance onstage with Stromae for weekend 2 of Coachella? What’s the history between the two artists?
In 2010, Kanye West remixed Stromae’s international hit “Alors on Danse” after Stromae expressed a desire to collaborate with him. You can see Stromae’s reaction to the news at 17:24 in this video.
West rapped two verses for the remix, in which he demands that you “throw your hands in the sky right now” and asserts
Unfortunately for the rest of ya’ll
I’m way better than the best of all
And even though they focus on just the flaws
They still gonna annihilate the festivals
And we still gonna sip Dom Perignon
And still gonna eat the filet mignon
It was an unlikely collaboration, and not just because an American superstar remixed a relatively unknown Belgian artist. More than that, the collaboration created a clash of visions. Stromae takes a completely different approach to his own lyrics’ content: “It’s pretty deep and not really happy,” he explained. “It’s not meant to make you sad, but it’s serious. I don’t want to talk about champagne, vodka, naked women, even if it’s a part of our life. For me it’s more interesting to talk about serious issues.”
Stromae’s lyrics to “Alors on Danse” tell the story of a desperately futile attempt to escape life’s problems by exactly the kind of partying West celebrates in his rap.
Et là tu t’dis que c’est fini/ And there, you tell yourself it’s over
Car pire que ça ce serait la mort/ Because any worse than this would be death
Quand tu crois enfin que tu t’en sors/ When you think you’ve finally gotten yourself out of it
Quand y en a plus et ben y en a encore/ When there’s more, and well, there’s even more
Est-ce la zik ou les problèmes?/ Is it the music or the problems?
Les problèmes ou bien la musique?/ The problems or really the music?
Ça t’prends les tripes ça te prends la tête/ It grabs you by the guts, it grabs you by the head
Et puis tu pries pour que ça s’arrête/ And then you pray for it to stop
Mais c’est ton corps c’est pas le ciel/ But this is your body, it isn’t heaven
Alors tu t’bouche plus les oreilles/ So you plug your ears even more
Et là tu cries encore plus fort et ça persiste/ And you shout louder, and it keeps going
Stromae eventually admitted to journalists that, while he admired West and was happy with the remix, the spirit of Kanye’s contribution was “totally the opposite of me.”
Despite the artists’ differences, the association with Kanye West provided an important boost for Stromae’s career. The remix is still mentioned in practically every article about Stromae, and is included on the international edition of Stromae’s first album, Cheese. It provided a degree of validation for Stromae in the eyes of English-speaking journalists and audiences who weren’t as familiar with Stromae’s work as West’s. Francophone journalists have also taken the collaboration as a sign that Stromae was making inroads into the notoriously difficult anglophone market.
In his video for “Carmen,” released earlier this month, Stromae included a subtle reference to Kanye’s 2013 video for “Bound 2.” In the “Bound 2” video, Kanye embraces his naked wife, Kim Kardashian, on a motorcycle. In “Carmen” the couple appears riding instead on a large blue Twitter bird, right behind Stromae’s character.
The couple also falls off a cliff into the jaws of a horrendous bird-monster, Kim in all her naked cartoon glory. But Kanye seems to have taken the video’s joke in stride.
In the days before the “Carmen” video was released, as part of its promotion, Stromae posted a series of facetious cartoons on Instagram. One of them showed him in bed between Kanye and Kim, taking a selfie, #WeJustChillin.
The two artists did not work together in person for the 2010 remix, and in fact had never met physically until the Coachella festival, when West surprised Stromae by coming onstage during “Alors on Danse.” West didn’t take the microphone.
Here’s a video showing West’s appearance onstage at Coachella and the audience reaction. As he left the stage, the two shared a handshake (that’s what’s happening in the photo above, even as Stromae continues dancing for the performance), and West bowed to Stromae before making his exit. Then Stromae stopped his musicians and asked the audience to “Make some noise for Kanye West!”
See Kanye onstage with Stromae starting at 3:12 in this video:
Stromae was reported to have been very emotional and touched by West’s surprise appearance.
UPDATE May 2: In a press conference in Guadaloupe, where he performed on April 22nd, Stromae commented on Kanye West’s appearance at Coachella: “We had the surprise appearance of Kanye West. That was a real gift. It gives still more energy for continuing, and not just in the United States, but also here.”