In 2013, Belgian artist Stromae’s critically acclaimed album Racine Carrée zipped around the world. Singles such as “tous les mêmes” and “Papaoutai” blasted through club speakers in France, Germany, the U.S., and elsewhere. Even those unskilled in French could understand what his music was meant for: Dancing. Electronically driven and utterly hypnotic, his breakthrough album left listeners hungry for more. Then, after a year or so of attention and performances, he largely vanished from view. The question became: What happened to Stromae?
Over the last eight years, he’s shied away from public performances, only rarely sharing the stray remix or off-the-wall collaboration. However, with his new surprise release “Santé” (his first in three years), paired with a slew of tour dates, a real comeback for Stromae finally seems possible.
While creating songs perfect for the dance floor, Stromae’s never been one to romanticize the luxuries of popping champagne bottles and flashing excessive wealth. With “Santé,” he presents an ode to the working class—a song for those pouring the drinks and left cleaning up after all night party ends. In it, he sings, “Let’s celebrate those who can’t celebrate,” and offers a low pressure yet danceable ditty, meant for subtle movements at any point in the day. He’s aware that those who do this kind of work don’t always have the energy for a song requiring high-energy moves or a 20-step TikTok tutorial—they’re tired after working through the night.
“Santé” feels breezy, not necessarily meant for working up a sweat on the dance floor, but for feeling out a groovy breakdown (as illustrated in the accompanying instructional music video). The acoustic, mellow sounds of the guitar and auxiliary percussion fuel the fire typically fed by synths in house music; light on its toes yet thumping along heavily with bass, the song mirrors the push and pull of who usually dances in the club versus who “Santé” is for. In the chorus, the high-pitched and swooping synth feels like it’s been put in slow motion, encouraging a loose sway.
Ultimately, “Santé” comes across as being for those hard workers forced to bite their tongue at offenses from strangers, staying up all night catering to the party-hard masses. After nearly two years of a global pandemic that has pushed service workers to their limits, Stromae gives them a reason to dance. It’s a different kind of electronic track—not for those who are on the floor, but those checking IDs at the door. It’s deeply refreshing, just like the artist’s long-awaited return.