Thirteen Contemporary Belgian Pop Musicians Worth a Listen
You would maybe not say it, but Belgium is a music country. In the past it has contributed greatly to the music scene, with for instance, singers like Jacques Brel, the invention of instruments like the saxophone and the proliferation of new sound, like techno’s Belgian New Beat. And today it has many music festivals each summer -almost each town has one-, with some major ones that attract international crowds and are beloved by students, like Tomorrowland and Rock Werchter.
When it comes to contemporary pop, Belgium has some names worth mentioning as well. Here is a list of some of the better Belgian musicians currently alive. Many of these artists sing in Dutch, French or English and have international careers, even though outside of Belgium they are more ‘underground’.
The first artist worth mentioning is Stromae. By now, Stromae is rather established. He broke through in 2008 with ‘Alors on dance’ (So we dance). He soon followed up with hits like ‘Papaoutai’ (Papawhereareyou), ‘Formidable’ (fantastic), ‘Ta fête’ (Your feast) and ‘Tous les mêmes’ (All the same). He has collaborated with artists like Kanye West and has received the award for best Belgian act at the MTV Europe Music awards in 2013.
Hooverphonic is a classic within contemporary Belgian music. They are a band, headed by bassist Alex Callier, that has gone through many female lead singers. They have always kept up their quality output, though. They broke through internationally when their track ‘2Wicky’ was used on the soundtrack of Bernardo Bertolucci’s movie Stealing Beauty. Their most famous song is arguably ‘Mad About you’, however. Lately, they were selected as the Belgian entry for the 2020 Eurovision song festival, with their song ‘Release Me’.
Oscar and The Wolf
Oscar and The Wolf is a dreamy Electropop artist. He first broke through internationally with his single ‘Orange Sky’ in 2013, though in Belgium he appeared onto the main stage of stardom with his participation in the prequel show to Eurosong for Kids in 2005. Other famous songs of his are ‘Strange Entity’, ‘Princes’, ‘Undress’ and ‘Breathing’. He sells out the biggest venues in Belgium, like the Sportpaleis (Sports palace) and the Ancienne Belgique (Old Belgian) quickly.
Dimitri Vegas & Like Mike
If Belgium has one music act of note today, it is probably Dimitri Vegas & Like Mike. They are DJ’s and producers with an impressive record. DJ Magazine nominated them as their top 1 DJ’s in their Top 100 two times: once in 2015 and once more recently in 2019. In between those years they have always held the second place. Some of their many hits are ‘Tremor’, ‘Boomshakalaka’, ‘Nova’, ‘Higher Place’ featuring Ne-Yo, and ‘Complicated’ with David Guetta featuring Kiiara.
Many lovers of Eurosong love the Belgian artists of the last years. One of the most beloved of these is Loïc Nottet. He broke through on Eurosong with his song ‘Rhythm Inside’ and has since gone on to establish himself. He is well-known for his intense style, both in his singing as in his performing. Recently, he released his new single ‘Heartbreaker’, which is much more pop than he has ever been before.
Another Belgian singer who had her breakthrough on Eurosong is Laura Tesoro. She hasn’t really gone international yet, but she certainly shows promise. She is still young and has a voice that has been compared to Ariana Grande’s. In Belgium she has had some great hits like her Eurovision song ‘What’s the Pressure’, ‘Higher’ and ‘Press Pause.’
Angèle is the current reigning queen of Belgian pop. She is a crowd-favourite, especially in the French-speaking parts of Belgium and in France. She is still young but has many hits already. Her songs ‘Tout Oublier’ (Forgetting everything), ‘La Thune’ (The money), her feminist song ‘Balance ton quoi’ (balance your why) and ‘Ta Reine’ (your queen) are already modern classics. She also has a knack for comedy, as can be seen in her songs ‘La loi de Murphy’ (Murphy’s law) and ‘Oui ou non’ (Yes or no). Recently, she collaborated with Dua Lipa on 'Fever'.
Bazart is an indie-band that has decide to try their hand at music in Dutch that is not in the Schlager-genre. Because of this, they stand out among other Dutch and Belgian artists. On top of that, their songs are good as well. They have had hits with ‘Goud’ (Gold), ‘Grip (Omarm me)’ (Grip (Hug me)) and most recently 'Denk maar niet aan morgen' (Just don't think about tommorow).
Milow is a Belgian singer and a staple of Belgian music. He was a finalist of Humo’s Rock Rally in 2004 and has built his career since. He is not only famous in Belgium but also well-loved in other European countries like Germany. Some of his hits are ‘You don’t know’, ‘Little in the Middle’ and his cover of 50 cent’s ‘Ayo Technology’.
Delta are the least well-known on this list. They are a duo singing in French. They launched their career in 2016 with their first single “En visant la lune” (Seeing the moon). In 2017, their first album ‘A ciel ouvert’ (To the open sky) appeared with their hit single ‘Je tire’ (I pull).
This list wouldn’t be complete without Selah Sue. Selah Sue is a unique voice within Belgian music and maybe even music in general. She is an enormous success in Europe. She was discovered by Milow, but her success and career has been mostly self-made. In 2010, she won the Music Industry Awards. Sometimes her sound is a little more reggae, other times more like the track on a James Bond movie. Notable hits of hers are ‘Raggamuffin’, ‘This World’, ‘Alone’, ‘I won’t go for more’ and ‘Fear Nothing’.
Tourist LeMC is the only rapper on this list. This does not mean that there aren’t any other rappers in Belgium, there are, but Tourist LeMC is an odd one out. Indeed, he raps in the Antwerp dialect of Dutch, making him the main proponent of a young new genre. His most well-known songs are ‘Koning liefde’ (King Love), ‘Mijn stad’ (My city) ‘Horizon’ and ‘Spiegel’ (Mirror).
Lastly, there is OT, whose full name is Olivia Trappeniers, a new rising star. She was first introduced to the public in The Voice of Flanders and went on to produce the song ‘You have a heart’ with Belgian producer Regi. Her most famous song to date is ‘Where is my love?’, however. Lately, she has been veering into the territory of Dutch sung music with songs like ‘Kom wat dichterbij’ (Come a little bit closer) and ‘Zo ver weg’ (So far away).
© 2020 Douglas Redant