Now that I have your attention, let’s talk about France. For those of you who do not know, I studied abroad there last year, so naturally I adore all things French. Though I am a bit biased, I believe the French music scene is undervalued outside of Europe. While everyone has heard of Edith Piaf, few Americans know any modern French artists. It’s true that most of them do not get a lot of air time in the U.S., so I thought I would show you all a few of my favorites.
Without further ado, here’s a list of French songs you need to listen to right away:
Tous Les Mêmes – Stromae
Stromae is not actually French; he is Belgian. However, he is really popular artist in France and Europe in general. No francophone artist list would be complete without him. On a personal note, I cannot emphasize how much I love his music. His album Racine Carrée (translation: Square Root) is one of my favorite albums ever. Stromae’s songs are easy to dance to, yet his lyrics are quite serious. Each song tackles a social issue. Tous Les Mêmes, for example, describes the expectations of men and women regarding relationships. One lyric “les hommes sont tous les mêmes” translates to “men are all the same”. This is an especially cool video because Stromae plays both a man and woman. How many American rappers have you seen dress in drag?
Saint Claude – Christine and the Queens
Christine and the Queens is an indie-pop group headed by Heloise Letissier. Aside from her captivating vocals (and killer dance movers), Heloise is a transgender activist who describes herself as pansexual. Since their debut in 2008, Christine and the Queens has had a steadily growing fanbase. They have toured with the likes of Marina and the Diamonds. Their lastest EP, Saint Claude, was released last February
Ba$$in – Yelle
Yet another bizarre French music video. Are you seeing a theme here? Yelle is extra crazy though. Because of this, she has gained considerable popularity in the U.S. and other non-French-speaking countries. This upbeat, sassy pop artist can be enjoyed by everyone.
Raphael – Carla Bruni
Fun fact: Carla Bruni is married to former President Nicolas Sarkozy. Are you really surprised? Look at those cheekbones. Seductive personality aside, she’s actually a talented musician. Her music has been featured in several films, such as 500 Days of Summer. Typically, her music is soothing and slightly sad. However, this song I’ve chosen is an angry song about an ex-boyfriend. Here’s my favorite lyric:
“Il a l’air d’un ange mais c’est un diable de l’amour” – he seems like an angel but he’s a devil of love.
This song is a nice reminder that even gorgeous humans are sometimes unlucky in love.
Dernière Danse – Indila
I only recently discovered this song, even though it was released back in 2013. The music video has 245 million views, which is kind of incredible for a song completely in French. Quick background: Indila is a R&B singer who was born in Paris, but has roots in Algeria, Cambodia and Egypt. She is not truly a one-hit wonder, because a lot of her other music is quite popular. Still, Dernière Danse is the one song of her that everyone knows and she will forever be associated with it. Take a listen, it’s a great tune and the music video is super dramatic.
Oublie-moi – Coeur de Pirate
Coeur de Pirate (Pirate’s Heart) is a francophone singer from Montreal. She has recorded several songs in English, but sticks to French for the most part. I would describe Coeur de Pirate as indie pop; she definitely has a unique sound. Additionally, her soft voice eliminates the occasional harshness of the French Canadian language (I apologize to any French Canadians who may be offended by that statement but I sometimes do not understand what you are saying because your accents are so different from the French I study).
Cérémonie – Sexion D’Assaut
Yes, French rap is a big deal. Sexion D’Assaut is a group of eight rappers from Paris. Each member has his own solo career, the most successful being Maitre Gims. This large group somehow makes it work and has seen a pretty successful career since its formation in 2002. One could say that this group is a little bit overproduced, but may I direct to you Drake and Kanye. Today, rap videos are just as excessive as pop ones. Sexion D’Assaut has many catchy songs and if you like this one, go check out Qui t’a dit and Ma Direction