When I was a kid, most of the music I loved best was coming from Europe, and so I loved it when Casey Kasem would occasionally mention on his weekly American Top 40 broadcasts which songs were topping the charts in places like Belgium and Norway (and, yes, of course, the U.K.). Most of the time, this would be in the context of introducing a song that was a current hit in the U.S. Example, “Coming up on AT40, the hit by the Austrian native Falco that’s currently number one in Romania, Italy, Poland, The Netherlands, and Czechoslovakia.” I always thought it was fascinating not just that, you know, Romania could have a Top 40, but that songs I knew could be on it. And that Casey Kasem knew what was on the Romanian Top 40. In my head, I imagined Romanian 11-year-olds like myself sneaking out of church (did they have church in Romania too?) to sit in their parents’ cars and listen to Casey Kasem count down the Romanian Top 40.
The downside of this all was that sometimes, Casey would announce the number one hits in these far-flung locales, but you wouldn’t get to actually hear them. Later on, I realized I could go to the library in Kenosha and they would have a copy of the current Billboard, and Billboard actually published the top 10s, 20s and/or 40s of various international territories, which was all good fun to read. But it always ended up in the disappointment of unrequited curiosity. Even if I’d had the money to buy a Fra Lippo Lippi album out of sheer Billboard-chart-induced curiosity, where was a kid in small-town Wisconsin supposed to buy it? And certainly no radio station was going to be playing it. Sad. And it just wasn’t right, because as it turns out, the difference in radio air-playability between Fra Lippo Lippi (who never had an American hit), and, say, Johnny Hates Jazz (who had a couple) is pretty negligible. Perhaps, after a-ha, U.S. labels and radio stations had decided that they had met their quota of break-out Norwegian pop acts.
Today’s musically-obsessive, internationally-minded, geographically-stranded pre-teens no longer have this issue. You don’t have to go to Kenosha to read the latest copy of Billboard. You can go to Billboard.com. And once there, and once you’re curious about, say, the number one hit in Europe that isn’t a hit here (yet?), you can go to YouTube and watch the video for that hit. And so, with that, I’m introducing this occasional little column called “Big In…” where I spin- err, embed – the hits of exotic locations. (Sadly, Billboard.com does not publish the Romanian Top 40.) First up is the current number one hit on the pan-European chart. It’s by 25-year-old Rwandan-Belgian rapper Paul van Haver, better known as Stromae. It’s called “Alors on Danse”, and it’s accompanied by a very cinematic split-screen video that only magnifies the song’s message (in French) of dancing in the face of existential boredom. Oui, baby!
[Update: So, okay, Universal Music France is mean. Click the link below to actually see the video]
Stromae \"Alors on Danse\"