La Musique Française
I remember during GCSE’s thinking it’s time that I begin to really immerse myself in the French culture, that I should start listening to French music, French tv shows and French news, something that was also drilled into us by our French teacher. I’m not sure how immersed I actually became, I mean apparently listening to Stromae isn’t enough. He isn't even French, which was thoroughly explained to me by my French friends (he’s Belgian).
So, anyway now having lived in France and having actually immersed myself in the French Culture, a little more than I had at least, I now know that there are more French singers than Edith Piaf and Charles Trennet. Embarrassingly, I thought Johnny Hallyday was English (who knows why, I think he sung one English song ever).
I also found myself the subject of many cries of “c’est pas possible” when the family of the children I teach were watching a Johnny Hallday tribute the day he died, and asked me if I knew of him. “'Allyday” and “Hallyday” didn’t connect in my mind at first, so of course I answered no. I was subsequently given a full education.
There are so many incredible French singers, who we never hear of in the UK unless you go out of your way to look for them, they don’t make their way into our charts or radio stations, or general knowledge. So, I thought I’d make a list of some of my favourite French artists.
You’ll notice a lot of them are female, I didn’t realise that until writing this, and I’m sure there are lots more male artists out there that I just haven’t listened to. So in no particular order here are some good artists to give a listen to....
Camille - Her most famous album 'le sac des filles' was released in 2004, she has since permeated into the anglophone world of music, contributing to the soundtrack of 'Ratatouille' and having her song 'Ta doleur' featured on Saturday Night live.
Cœur de Pirate - Beatrice Martin is a Canadian singer-songwriter, better known by her stage name Cœur de Pirate, praised for getting Quebec's youth interested in French music once again.
Pink Martini – My sisters favourites, and one of the most diverse musical groups you will listen to, they sing in over 15 different languages, with French obviously being included in this. They also made their European debut at Cannes Film Festival 1997.
Madeline Peyroux - Slightly cheating, as Madeline is in fact an American Jazz and Blues singer-songwriter, although raised in France. She moved to Paris at 13 with her mother, and then at 15 began to perform with street performers in the Latin quarter. The New York Times described her as a mix of Billie Holiday, Ella Fitzgerald and Edith Piaf.
Barcella - Barcella started out as a supporting act for the likes of Cœur de Pirate, before releasing his debut album in 2010. He draws from the 'classical' music of Edith Piaf and Leo Torré alongside the Gallic hip-hop scene and is celebrated for preserving the french slam poetry scene.
Zaz - Known for her mixing of styles between Jazz, soul and acoustic, she has sold over 3.4 million albums worldwide. Counting her influences as Jazz singers such as Ella Fitzgerald alongside African, Cuban and Latin rhythms she has won multiple awards including the Echo award for best International Female rock/pop artist.
Carla Bruni - Most famous for her 2002 album 'Quelqu'un m'a dit' which spent 34 weeks in the Top 10 of the French charts. She is also a powerful figure politically, being married to Nicholas Sarkozy, and in the world of fashion, having had an early career in modelling.
Pierre Bachelet – Known for his gentle, romantic voice, Bachelet was a successful French singer during the 70s and 80s, some of his best songs include 'En l'an 2001' and 'Vingt ans'. Sadly, Bachelet died of lung cancer in 2005.
Bénabar - His style is based on typical French 'chanson' using piano or accordion alongside occasional French Fanfare. His songs describe daily life in a humorous and often cynical style.
For something a little different...
BB Brunes – A french rock band, from the early 2000's, their influences are mostly punk and rock bands from the 60's and 70's alongside singers like Bowie, Winehouse and Serge Gainsbourg. Their first single 'Le Gang' is a personal favourite.
Salut c’est cool – Is a group of four Parisian musicians, belonging to the dance/electronic genre. Normally, I am not a fan of this type of music but their songs are so kitsch and ridiculous they're quite fun. Check out 'les fleurs'.
Louis Attaque - I never realised French country was a thing before I came across Louis Attaque and his song ‘J’t’emmène au vent’ and I’m so in love with it, I love country and I love French so this was the perfect birth child to discover.
Partenaire Particulier – A French pop, electronic and new wave band from the 80's. Best known for their 1985 single 'Partenaire Particulier'.
Max Boubil – Is a French comedian, singer and actor, who is well known for the humour in his songs and his portrayal of personalities such as his song 'Susan Boyle' and 'J'aime les mouches'. He has released two albums so far.
Alex Renart - A relatively new face to the French music scene, Alex Renart's songs mix French 'chanson' and 'rap', something referred to as 'chrap'. His music is also labelled as 'manouche' better known in English as 'gypsy swing' or 'gypsy jazz'.
Let us know your favourite French singers and artists in the comments!