Stromae returns to celebrate the uncelebrated

Stromae music is once again full of hard-hitting social commentary

"Fils de joie" creates conversations around sex-workers

With the rapid rise of platforms like Only Fans, sex work and sex workers have been in the public eye more than ever. Their newfound visibility breeds a new type of discourse across spaces, including in the arts.

If you’re at all familiar with French pop and hip hop, you might know one artist participating in this conversation: Stromae. The Belgian artist returned to the music scene with his third studio album Multitude on March 14.

He’s always been a politically and socially conscious artist, blending a diverse range of styles into his music and using ironic imagery and language to make hard-hitting critiques.

Some of his most popular tracks, such as “carmen” and “tous les meme,” are key examples of this, commenting on the social media age and arbitrary gender roles. In Multitude, Stromae continues makes more biting social commentary, especially with the fourth track, “fils de joie.”

This track takes the perspective of a sex worker’s son, who laments the cruel things he hears about his mother. The music video elevates the song with added context, taking place in a fictionalized country where a large-scale military funeral is held for a missing sex worker.

Stromae takes to the podium, singing as if he were the son of the sex worker. Most of the verses are from the perspective of different actors in a sex worker’s life: a client, a police officer, and a manager, all exploiting and profiting off her in various ways.

This is where Stromae’s lyrical irony appears in the song.

Most lines seem to come from those who exploit and harm sex workers, but could also be coming from sex workers themselves. The lyrics remind the listener of a worker’s humanity and the necessity of their work. The son’s interjections in the chorus speak to his mother’s positive impact on him.

The double meaning in the verses reveals the hypocrisy in the police and sex workers’ clients, while also humanizing sex work by reminding us they’re not so different from other workers.

The music video also implies reverence for sex work and the subject’s hard work and sacrifices. The funeral in the music video features dancers in formal uniforms parading around the square, giving this woman all the airs and graces normally only given to national heroes.

The song’s lyrics and the music video paint a clear vision of Stromae’s views toward sex workers. They follow the theme of Multitude: celebrating cultures and marginalized people. Stromae’s participation in this conversation contributes to feminist ideologies and movements, humanizing and destigmatizing sex workers.

Stormae also orients his visuals to honour sex workers, giving them the celebration they deserve, rather than profiting from violent imagery against a vulnerable population. Soldiers and police are at the funeral, celebrating the sex worker as they would an honourable soldier.

Sex work has always been controversial—a controversy increased by the fact the faces of sex work are usually marginalized people, like women, people of colour, and trans people. It’s nice to see a celebrity known for his sobering social commentary taking a pro-sex work stance and outlining the hypocrisy in the discourse surrounding how we treat them.

“Fils de joie” is another stunning Stromae track but, beyond that, it’s a beautiful act of solidarity.


Art, Music, Socialissue

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