In the summer of 2016, when the UK voted to leave the European Union, Christine and the Queens broke through with ‘Tilted’ and the English version of her stunning debut album ‘Chaleur humaine’. She seemed to encapsulate everything great about Europe that we were beginning to distance ourselves from. Now, with the reality check that Brexit is (potentially) on the horizon, I decided to depress myself even more by looking to the continent to see if there were any other talented artists that I was missing out on.
Miraculously, I found hope in the form of the Belgian popstar Angèle van Laeken, whose debut album ‘Brol’ (roughly translating to ‘Dump’ in English) is one of the best pop albums I’ve heard in recent years. She may be unknown to most Brits, even to fans of other European pop exports such as Christine and the Queens and Sigrid, but she has a hefty 1.3m Instagram followers and is already selling out arenas across France and Belgium. Success on that scale surely can’t be ignored by the British music industry, so I wouldn’t be surprised if ‘Brol’ were to be re-released in English in the next couple of years.
One of my favourite things about Angèle is how whimsical she is, especially in her music videos. Her debut opens with ‘La thune’, a commentary on bougie celebrity culture and the way that the rich construct their perfect lives on Instagram. The song is accompanied by an opulent, colourful music video which sees Angèle firing money out of a gun with a huge grin on her face.
Another highlight from the record is ‘Jalousie’ (Jealousy), which epitomises the jealous girlfriend stereotype, becoming deeply suspicious over any interaction that her boyfriend has with another girl. This song also has a gorgeous yet hilarious video, in which Angèle and her dancers vogue with mirrored boxes on their heads. Angèle even plays the piano whilst walking on a treadmill… could she get anymore badass?
On ‘Flemme’ (my favourite song from the record), she addresses mental health in the lines: “Who the hell do you think you are? / Stayin’ in bed instead of going out / Who the hell do you think you are? / Stayin’ in bed instead of standing proud”, which perfectly summarises the internal conflict between our self-conscious, anxious minds fighting against the more confident side of ourselves that tells us we should always be socialising and getting ‘out there’.
I love that Angèle makes layered, interesting pop music without taking herself too seriously. I’ve connected to the production of her songs and been able to establish the mood of certain songs, without having to translate the lyrics. To me, that’s the mark of a true artist, the ability to convey a message or emotion without words. Essentially, the fact that she mostly sings French should not deter you from listening to her music. Despite being critical of social media, Angèle’s Instagram is marvellous – a mélange of her aesthetic and shit-posting, with meme-worthy otters often making an appearance. She treads the fine line between being an artist and a comedian and this is what makes her so perplexing and so brilliant.
For fans of: Christine and the Queens, Lorde, Billie Eilish
The music video for Angèle’s latest single ‘Balance Ton Quoi’ is out now: