Combining influences as diverse as Jacques Brel, Cuban son, Congolese music, house, and hip-hop into danceable songs with thought-provoking lyrics, Stromae is a Belgian vocalist, songwriter, and producer. Known for his clean-cut look and trademark bow tie, Born Paul van Haver in Brussels on March 12, 1985 to a Belgian mother and Rwandan father, van Haver was raised by his mother and developed an interest in music at an early age. When he was 11, Paul became a student at L'Académie Musicale de Jette, and started playing the drums. In 2005 he took up rap music, and after briefly performing as Opmaestro, he took the stage name Stromae (an anagram for "Maestro") and launched a short-lived hip-hop combo named Suspicion.
By 2007, Stromae was back to working as a solo act, and he recorded his first single, "Juste un Cerveau, un Flow, un Fond et un Mic...." It was in 2009 that he got his real big break -- while working at a Belgian radio station, he created the song "Alors on Dance" using his home-recording setup, and the manager of the station was impressed enough with the track to play it on air. Response from listeners was enthusiastic, and Stromae struck a deal with Polygram Records: "Alors on Dance" became a number one hit in Belgium, and went on to repeat that success in a dozen countries, including Germany, France, Italy, Switzerland, Greece, and Denmark.
As "Alors on Dance" climbed the charts across Europe and Stromae's videos became a sensation on YouTube, he released his first album, Cheese, in 2010. In August 2010, Stromae's career got a major boost in the United States when Kanye West collaborated with him on a remix of "Alors on Dance," featuring a guest rap from West. His follow-up, Racine Carrée, appeared in August 2013. Distinguished by his integration of African and Caribbean influences, the album was an immediate success in Belgium and France, spending virtually the rest of the year at number one in each country. Ultimately, Racine Carrée went platinum eight times in Belgium and sold over 1.5 million copies in Europe. That November, Stromae won the Best Belgian Act at the MTV Europe Music Awards.
Racine Carrée's success continued into 2014: the song "Ta Fête" became the official song for Belgium's national football team at that year's World Cup, and Stromae made his U.S. debut that June, performing his first live dates as well as appearing on NBC's Late Night with Seth Meyers. He also appeared on the Lorde-curated soundtrack for The Hunger Games: Mockingjay, Part 1 on "Meltdown," a track featuring Pusha T, Q-Tip, HAIM, and Lorde. He continued to play live in 2015, performing at festivals such as SXSW, Coachella, and Lollapalooza and embarking on an African tour. ~ Mark Deming