As mentioned in yesterday’s blog post, Monsieur Lartigue has asked me to compile a listing of French music, especially French pop music, that his students and clients may find helpful and enjoyable.
A sampling of a few of my French pop music. There’s just so much!
How could I not turn this into a blog post of its own?
If you’ve ever been to France—whether it’s Paris or Brittany or from other points north down to the Cote d’Azur, you know that something as simple as a song that you’ve heard while traveling will trigger nothing but great memories.
And I’m THAT person who keeps all my French music alphabetized and organized. It’s about the only thing I’m organized about!
If you’ve never been to France, and are planning a trip in the near or distant future, you may want to familiarize yourself or immerse yourself into the culture to gain a bit of an education about Gallic tastes in entertainment. Or, you just may be interested in the music.
Are you going my way in France? Yeah, the scenery is gorgeous–but you can’t bring this home. Buy music instead!
Whatever the reason, there is always a moment that piques your interest in French music. For me, the “Aha” moment was while on our way to Versailles some years back. Bonaparte was driving and I was surfing the radio stations. I came across a station—Nostalgie Radio. This was the equivalent of the oldies radio stations in the States. Pop music that spanned decades was offered and boy, were my ears opened wide! The instant I heard that first French pop song, I was hooked.
This station. Solely responsible for my lust of French Pop Music!
From that point on, it was my mission to search out CD’s with every visit to Paris or other points within the country. In Paris, it was, and remains, Gibert Joseph Musique on Blvd. St. Michel over in the 6th.
And you just never know what surprises lurk in the midst of the CD’s. It could be live music!
When we are in Theoule, I always check out the CD offerings at Géant Hypermarché in Mandelieu and FNAC in Cannes. My bag is always full.
True. Not only can you get groceries here, but it is a Pandora’s box of French music you’ve never heard!
Believe me. Cannes is so much more than the film festival. It’s a place where you can buy lots of music. Remember the pronunciation is “fnac”–one syllable. Not “Fa-nack”–and I’ve heard Americans say that!
The remarkable thing about French Pop music is that you can learn the language in a fun way. And the music is a pleasure to listen to!
Anyway, here’s a few recommendations from my collection—not all are “Pop” but the mix is eclectic and enjoyable:
Celine Dion’s French Language CD’s: This is unusual for me because I can’t stand Celine Dion when she sings in English. For some reason, her voice always sounds a bit strained but when she sings in French, it’s a whole ‘nother ballgame. Her voice is effortless when she sings in French. It’s just beautiful. If you see any French language CD of Dion’s, don’t think—just buy it. You’ll see what I mean.
You got it Celine. I have NO idea what you are saying when you sing. I only know that your songs sound much better in French!
Dalida: Dalida Nostalgie Collection I love Dalida. I love her voice. I love her hair. I love everything about her. I love the fact that some of her songs—especially the ones recorded in the 1970’s were slightly on the cheesy side. It doesn’t matter. And her duet “Paroles” with Alain Delon makes me swoon. If you get the chance, try to watch the bio-pic “Dalida”—it’s incredibly sad. She was an extraordinary talent and she lives on eternally in France—she’s still a hugely popular singer. This collection of songs is a great CD to start off with.
I love Dalida so much that I follow her fan page on Instagram. Don’t judge. Dalida is epic. And this Nostalgie compilation is epic too!
Francoise Hardy: Tout les Garcons et les Filles I have two CD’s of hers but my favorite by far is this remix of her first album. It’s a great introduction to the infamous ye-ye girl sound. The songs are short and sweet. This CD makes me want to get dressed in miniskirts, boots, and fitted turtleneck sweaters.
Francoise Hardy. She’s so …so….so…French! The epitome of the ye-ye Girl. And the CD is as adorable as she is!
Sandrine Kiberlain: Manquait plus qu ‘ça. She’s an actress and I had no idea that she was a singer until I heard one of her songs on a compilation. I found this CD, in a bin at Gibert Joseph. I think I paid 2 euros and it is one of my favorites. Her voice is soft and the songs have a very middle-eastern sound to them.
Who knew this actress could sing? And her CD is one of my all-time favorites! Highly recommended by moi!
Carla Bruni: Comme Si de rien n ‘était. Madame Sarkozy is also a recording artist in her own right. I’m a huge fan of Bruni. She has one of those wonderfully raspy voices. Bruni is a talented guitarist and songwriter as well. This is a beautiful CD. Who knew the former first lady of France, who was also quite the party girl in her modeling days, would be such a fabulous musical talent?
My kids know me well. My son Jake had this CD burned for me. Actually, we are a family who appreciates Ms. Bruni’s, Madame Sarkozy’s talent! This is one fantastic CD!!
Liane Foly: Reve Orange. Hands down. Foly is my favorite French femme singer. Her voice is like brandy, it’s so smoky, and deep and rich and enticing. I have a couple of her CD’s and need to add more. You want to listen to her as you sip your aperitif before dinner.
Liane Foly. Wow! I wish she would tour the USA because I would have a front-row seat. She is, hands down, my favorite French Chanteuse.
Zaz: Zaz. Aka Isabelle Geffroy, is one of the most popular French singers of all time. She’s hard to pinpoint as far as style goes. She’s pop. She’s jazz. She’s friggin’ talented. Sometimes she can sound like Piaf. Most times not. Zaz is another one of the gifted raspy voice. This, her first CD is an enjoyable way to meet her!
Zaz on the cover of her first CD. I’m happy that I own this. She’s young but an iconic singer in France.
Michel Polnareff: The Best Of. Ain’t gonna lie. I got chills the first time I heard Polnareff’s voice. He’s been around for a long time—since the early ‘60s, and like fine wine he gets better. The Admiral (as he’s referred to) is still making music. His early pop ye-ye music is sweet and adorable and he’s evolved into a wonderful songwriter.
If you can track this CD down. Do!! Polnareff has been around a long time and he’s one of the best talents France has to offer. I love this guy!!!
Michel Delpech: The Best Of. I’m telling you, these “best of” compilations are the best way to become familiar with the French singers you may not know about. Delpech had me at the song “Pour en Flirt”. It is such a catchy song and pure pop. Many French people I know are enamored of his song “Chez Laurette” which is more of a pop ballad and was very, very popular.
R.I.P. Michel Delpech. But you live forever in your music. This CD is a great introduction to Delpech. It’s got some of his biggest hits and it does not disappoint!
Yannick Noah: Pokhara. Yes. This is that Yannick Noah. The Tennis champion. After retiring from sport, he became a singer and a very popular one! This CD was a find for me at one euro. It’s a nice CD.
Pokhara has a Marley vibe. Be warned. If you get this CD, you will be singing the song “ye-mama-ye” all day long. All. Day. Long. It’s infectious in the best way!
Joe Dassin: Les Meilleur de Joe Dassin. He turned many US hits into French ones through the power of translation. Maybe because he was born in the USA. He was Brooklyn boy but during the 1950’s his dad was blacklisted and the family moved to France. He was incredibly popular and this CD is easy to see why.
Joe Dassin. He’s like SpaghettiOs. Totally Franco-American!
Daniel Balavoine: Master Series. Balavoine’s voice has tremendous range. His records sold over 20 million copies in France and throughout Europe. He’s one of my favorites. His songs are pop and not necessarily the happiest of themes are covered. Many are about heartbreak and despair. Balavoine was killed in a helicopter crash in 1986 on the way to a charity concert. The song, “La vie ne m’apprend rien,” written and sung by Balavoine went on to be covered by just about every singer in France. Liane Foly gives the best cover version. Ever!
A tremendous talent who met an untimely passing. I’ve got a couple of his CD’s and his voice is big! Big and beautiful!
Laurent Voulzy. Belle Ile en Mer and Belem. This guy. This guy. His voice is so gentle and soft and sweet and charming and it is nothing not short of great. I remember the first time I heard him. We were driving in Theoule. We were just winding a bend that overlooks the bay. Nostalgie was on the radio and this song came on and I started doing one of those sit-down dances. The song was “Rockollection” and put a smile on my face. It’s a friggin’ happy song! One of the best French pop songs of all time. So great, in fact, that it’s been updated. The Belle ile en Mer CD contains a playlist of his fabulous pop songs—especially poppy is “Bubble star”—another song that’ll put a smile on your face.
Voulzy’s latest CD. Belem. Oh. How I love this. And you will too! Go to Amazon right now and order this. That’s an order!
Belem is Voulzy’s most recent CD. It was released last month. It’s a great collection of songs with a Brazilian flair. Honestly, if you get the chance, buy this one. It’s one of those CD’s that’ll bring your mind directly to your favorite beach while envisioning the heat hitting your face while you drink a Rum concoction!
Alain Souchon: Comme Vous Voulez. This is a CD among the five Souchon CD’s that we have. His voice is soft—very similar to Voulzy. His songs are easy to understand, his voice is very clear and the melodies are very sweet and easy on the ears! And he is extremely popular in France!
Alain Souchon and Laurent Voulzy. Collaborators and similar sounds. If you like a soothing voice–either one will please you!
Georges Brassens: Best of Volume 2. I wouldn’t call his music pop. I would refer to it as musical poetry. Brassens is an iconic figure in France because of his words and songs. If you really, really want to l, earn the French language through song, then listen to Brassens. His voice is so spectacularly clear and his pronunciation is impeccable. In fact, after listening to some of his poetry to music, after a while, you’ll be able to understand what he is singing about. I never get tired of listening to him.
Brassens. Volume 2 and 3. I’m listening to Volume 2 as I write this now. The clarity of his voice is sensational!
Hugues Aufray: Le Disque D’Or. Hugues Aufray has been around forever. Two songs on this CD are incredible. Celine, which is one of the most beautiful love songs and Santiano, a song I have no idea what its about but I like it!
This is a remix of an old CD but I dig this guy. He’s been around for ages!
Les Groupes and Other Pairings:
Suarez: On Attend L’indécideur . Every now and then you discover a gem. That’s what happened when I discovered Suarez. On Attend was in a 1-euro bin and I went for it. Best one euro I ever spent. This Belgium/Madagascar group plays songs that are catchy and melodic. The L’incedideur CD is just as good. I can’t for the life of me figure out why this group hasn’t achieved world-wide fame. They are that good. On Attend is one of those CD’s, that if you play it in your car, you won’t eject it for months. I know this. I have two copies of On Attend and one is in my car’s CD player and has been there for quite a while!
How do I love Suarez? Let me count the CD’s. I have TWO copies of On Attend. Does that give you an idea?
Notre-Dame de Paris. This is a soundtrack of the play. If you ever get the chance, try to find the DVD because it will make you cry. I’m not kidding. The next best thing—the CD. When we saw this in FNAC, we immediately picked it up and ran to the cashier! Garou, the incredible French-Canadian singer plays Quasimodo and his voice is that man-raspy voice but it is sooooo good!! Daniel Lavoi is Frollo and Patrick Fiori is Phoebus—so right away you have three great male singers. The big hit of the soundtrack is the haunting “Belle”—in which all three men sing their love for Esmeralda. Oh. I just got the chills!
Double your entertainment. Track down the DVD and watch it. It will move you to the point of tears. In the meantime, if you can get your hands on this soundtrack, by all means do it!!
Amelie. It’s bad enough that I watch the movie at least once a month. I’ve memorized half the dialogue. But I also had to have the soundtrack because of the music by Yann Tiersen. The soundtrack is quirky and a bit unusual in spots but nonetheless very French!!
The music from my favorite movie of all time. Need I elaborate????
Comme des Freres. Shameless plug for this soundtrack. Bonaparte’s cousin, Hugo Gelin, directed this film. It was his first major film. Hugo was also very serious about the music for the film. The group, Revolver preforms a good portion of the music. An American hit on the soundtrack is the fun “Shame, Shame, Shame” by Shirley & Company. Remember that adorable song?
If you look up “Parallel Lines” from Comme des Freres on YouTube, you’ll see Hugo in the video. You’ll also see a very young Pierre Niney!
Jane Birkin/Serge Gainsbourg: I can’t even with these two. I love them both to pieces. What a couple!!! Although I wouldn’t call Birkin the greatest singer, there’s something very charismatic about her voice. It’s so sing-songy sweet. She’s very dreamy to listen to. And Serge Gainsbourg—he’s got some X-rated songs but for the most part, he’s ridiculously talented. He kind of reminds me of Leonard Cohen with the voice. The Nostalgie collection of Birkin’s hits and the Gold collection of Gainsbourg are worth listening to if you aren’t familiar with either as singers.
I love Serge Gainsbourg because of his humor and because he always looks like he just woke up. And Birkin is more than just a bag. OK? She’s even better as she’s aged. I love her!
Jacques Dutronc/Thomas Dutronc: Talent sure runs in this family. Jacques Dutronc is Francoise Hardy’s husband, Thomas is their son (not only is he talented, but the looks. The genetics here. Please.) Jacques Dutronc, in my opinion, is the Ray Davies of the French singers. His songs from the 1960’s are witty and funny and he has that pop garage band thing going on. Thomas is more contemporary but just as talented on the guitar. These CD’s are fun to listen to!
Frere Jacques and fils, Thomas. Those genes. And yes. Thomas is very talented!
Alain Souchon & Laurent Voulzy: Oui. Oui. Oui. They made a CD!! And I have it and it is wonderful. Please order this on Amazon. The songs Consuelo and Bad Boys are worth the price. Both these men have voices that blend so well together, it’s no wonder they tour together and record together!
Oh…this CD. I’m in love with it. I strongly suggest putting this on your “must buy” list. These guys. My heart skips a beat when I listen to them!
France –The Greatest Songs Ever: This is a terrific sampling of some of the best pop songs and then some. You’ve got your usual—Piaf, Aznavour, Charles Trenet and then you have others. And the others are what got me interested in their CD’s. Liane Foly, Raphael and Renaud were two singers I had never heard before I listened to this CD. Now they are among my faves! And the cover insert comes with French Recipes! How great is that?
This CD doesn’t lie. Some of those songs ARE the greatest!
Chanson Française: OK. This 3-disc compilation was purchased over the summer at Géant Hypermarché. It was all of 5 euros. Grocery shopping in France leads to so many surprises. Disc 1 is by far the favored, but the other two contain quite a few pop hits. If you’re ever at Géant in Mandelieu -la-Napoule, might I suggest you saunter on to the back of the store where the books and TV’s are sold and head over to the CD section? You’re welcome!
Top left–best five euros I’ve spent at a supermarket. Chanson Francais. A great value and a great listen. Putamay0’s Acoustic France is readily available at Barnes & Noble and is a great introduction to French music. There’s some good stuff on this CD!
Acoustic France: This CD is one of the Putumayo compilations. It was purchased years ago at Barnes & Noble. And it is a goodie! Again, it is a reliable source and sampling of various French singers to discover. I found out that Sandrine Kiberlain was a singer from this CD. This should be very easy to obtain and I think if you are interested in French music, this is a good one to have in your collection.
Naturally, there’s a lot more music where these came from, and this is just a sampling. Amazon carries just about these CD’s and you can have them delivered to your door!
Renaud is another much-loved musician. Mistral Gagnant is oddly, not about the mistral winds but a memory of a candy bar aptly named–Mistral Gagnant!
Hey. Sometimes you can make a purchase that isn’t all that great. I LOVE Jean-Jacques Goldman but this CD was NOT all that and a bag of chips. Next time I’ll do better!
Julien Clerc is another well-known singer. He’s got one of those very dramatic voices. He’s been around a while!
This guy. Raphael. He’s great! His song “Caravane” is absolutely gorgeous and a bit ethereal!
Frero Delavega. I’m a fan of this duo. They were on the French equivalent of “The Voice” and ended up with a couple of very successful CD’s. This is a winna!!
C. Jerome. If you are in the mood for pure pop, the kind of music you remember from middle school, this is the CD for you. Personally, I’m a sucker for bagpipes and on the song Himalaya–yes. Bagpipes. I’m getting the vapors here! I love this CD!
And if you are planning a trip to Paris or parts in France anytime soon, remember to check out the music. Purchasing music is such an inexpensive way to bring the best memories home.
What song can I give you as a sample? Well, it was a tough decision so I picked two. One. Liane Foly’s version of Daniel Balavoine’s “La vie ne m’apprend rien”
And..the writer of the song above, but he’s singing “Aziza”. Daniel Balavoine