Recommend some music with french lyrics
January 25, 2005 5:16 AM   Subscribe

Another music question: I'm learning french at evening classes and would like to get hold of more music (pop, rock, jazz, hip-hop...) with lyrics in french [+].

Currently I have some Manu Chao (excellent but only partly in french) and some Serge Gainsbourg (excellently cheesy). So I have a long way to go to build up my francophone music collection. What should I have in my amazon wishlist?
posted by handee to Writing & Language (50 answers total) 16 users marked this as a favorite
MC Solaar!
posted by ascullion at 5:24 AM on January 25, 2005

Have any kids in the house? Then grab the single by Thomas from the Junior Eurovision, it's cute. (wmv video here if you scroll).

I always had a thing for Mc Solaars rap, you might like that. ANd you can't have a francophone collection without Edith Piaf and "Non, Je Ne Regrette Rien"!
posted by dabitch at 5:27 AM on January 25, 2005

La Haine soundtrack is excellent.
posted by the cuban at 5:29 AM on January 25, 2005

Autour de Lucie seems pretty good, especially "Sur tes Pas" and "Immobile."
posted by abcde at 5:33 AM on January 25, 2005

Petula Clark, Toog, France Gall, Noir Desir, Dominique A, Stereolab.
posted by mdn at 5:39 AM on January 25, 2005

I second Edith Piaf and Stereolab, and I also recommend earlier Francoise Hardy (warning - annoying browser resizing).

Oh and some Les Nubians (warning - audio).
posted by boomchicka at 5:44 AM on January 25, 2005

There's at least one Blondie song with a whole verse in French. I can hum it, but I can't remember the name.
posted by rfs at 5:47 AM on January 25, 2005

Jacques Dutronc is awesome 60's beat-rock (look for et moi et moi et moi and les cactus), and there's a couple of Rufus Wainwright songs in french that I know of.
posted by cheaily at 5:52 AM on January 25, 2005

The soundtrack to The Umbrellas of Cherbourg is not only great music, but words are enunciated in a way that makes it very easy for beginners to comprehend. If you haven’t seen the film, I’d suggest that as well.

Yann Tiersen has been releasing fantastic albums for years. Stereo Total sings fun pop in French, German, Spanish, and perhaps other languages too. And I second mdn’s recommendation of Dominique A.
posted by tulseluper at 5:52 AM on January 25, 2005

MC Solaar, tu manges du chat.

Definitely Jacques Brel. I love Jacques Brel.

This awesome Scopitone site has a video of him singing Madelaine. There are other french songs there. Check the site for more on what a scopitone is.

Alpha Blondie is reggae in French and English.

Les tetes brulees.
Manu Negra.

Les Sages Poetes de la rue. - more rap.

Here is the francophone music only section of for ideas.

Bon Chance.

I have Solaar & Jacques Brel on CD. Email me to swap.
posted by putzface_dickman at 5:54 AM on January 25, 2005

The compilation "Pop Romantique" features songs in French by the likes of the Apples in Stereo, the Magnetic Fields, Heavenly, and Luna.
posted by tulseluper at 5:59 AM on January 25, 2005

Serge Gainsbourg! Zap Mama!
posted by box at 6:00 AM on January 25, 2005

rfs: I guess you're either thinking of Denis, or Sunday Girl, of which there's an alternate version almost entirely in French.
posted by misteraitch at 6:03 AM on January 25, 2005

Paris Combo, Coralie Clement, Carla Bruni, Francoise Hardy, MC Solaar, and Autour de Lucie. This is what is in my playlist anyway, there's a lot more out there. I really STRONGLY recommend Paris Combo and Coralie Clement - they are on nearly constantly in my studio.
posted by annathea at 6:17 AM on January 25, 2005

The mp3 blog Fat Planet will most likely send you in the right direction. I have seen French language artists and bands linked there in the past.
posted by jasonspaceman at 6:20 AM on January 25, 2005

Saian Supa Crew (hip hop)
posted by NinjaPirate at 6:22 AM on January 25, 2005

Les Negresses Vertes, album "Mlah". Really amazing, energetic sound, very fun to listen to. (Caveat: I don't speak French, and they are/were French Gypsies, so they may be singing in a Gypsie dialect of French.)
posted by sic at 6:25 AM on January 25, 2005

Serge Gainsbourg would be my first recommendation for classic French pop. And he's pretty wordy so that could really help you with learning French. I'm not a big fan of Jacques Brel, but I can't deny that he's an essential French artist.

Also I'd recommend the first French artist I ever bought an album by: new wave pop guy Plastic Bertrand which came out around 1980 and is fun as hell. The first Autour de Lucie is a great French indie pop album from about 10 years ago. There are also loads of great French girl pop compilations out there.
posted by Slack-a-gogo at 6:27 AM on January 25, 2005

Damn you, sic! Mlah! is one of my favorite albums, and I was totally ready to recommend it. (They're not really singing a dialect, by the way--more just slang. I'm sure there's some gypsy argot in there, but the lyrics are pretty readily understandable.)

You might also try Iso, by Ismael Lo...very different tone than LNV, but beautiful songs, and very intelligible French.
posted by LairBob at 6:32 AM on January 25, 2005

MC Solaar is good. Other fun stuff includes Les Colocs, Louise Attaque, and Stefie Shock
posted by Cuke at 6:37 AM on January 25, 2005

Boubacar Traore is a musician (guitarist/singer) from Mali who sings in French most of the time, though I'm not sure how much Mali French veers from Paris French... His stuff is mellow and quiet mostly, but gets your soul moving. He is really Awesome, check him out. Plus, on Amazon, one reviewer mentions that his 4 year old told him he "needs more Boubacar"... how awesome is that??

More: Josephine Baker (charmingly "bad" accent and its all about "J'ai deux amours"!) and Putamayo's collection "French Carribean" (music of Haiti, Guadalupe and Martinique).

Also, anything by Guillaume Dufay & Binchois rock my world, but they are medieval composers, hence not to everyone's taste and their French is pretty, um, medieval...
posted by ibeji at 6:39 AM on January 25, 2005

handee - thanks for asking this question, I'm in a similar boat wanting to find more music with the lyrics in French. I can third or fourth the recommendation for MC Solaar. But that's about it, which is why your question and these answers are so relevant!
posted by safetyfork at 6:40 AM on January 25, 2005

La Piaf for sure.

And Charles Aznavour, the Frank Sinatra of France.
posted by briank at 6:54 AM on January 25, 2005

Two compilations:

Get Easy Vol. 3 -- groovy go go 60's French pop. Unfortunately, DustyGroove seems to be out of stock and it's way overpriced at Amazon.Dustygroove does have other comps that look promising, so be sure to scroll down.

The Luaka Bop compilation Cuisine Non-Stop has more contemporary stuff in a nice mix of styles.
posted by hydrophonic at 7:05 AM on January 25, 2005

Also, Celine Dion has several francophone albums available. I have two of them: "s'il suffisait d'aimer" and "The French Album". I was able to buy them at my local music store. :) I bought "The French Album" on a cassette tape and it included the lyrics. I believe the cd version of "s'il suffisait d'aimer" has the lyrics included as well.
posted by cass at 7:06 AM on January 25, 2005

I'm not a big fan of Jacques Brel, but I can't deny that he's an essential French artist.

Nitpicky, i know, but Brel was Belgian.
posted by the cuban at 7:17 AM on January 25, 2005

Look towards Quebec for current Francophone music. I'm out of touch with what's current, but stations like the Radio Energie network will have suggestions on their playlists. The Francophone music world is small enough that you don't need to worry too much about accidentally finding the equivalent of Hoobastanque.

Similarly you can get a good look at what might be interesting from this year's Montreal Francofolies program. Be sure to check the spectacles gratuites as well as en salle, because 7/8 of Francofolies is outdoor.

There's Quebecois folk, too, if that's your thing. La Bottine Souriante is just plain fun.
posted by mendel at 7:28 AM on January 25, 2005

Le Pop and Le Pop 2 are great comps as are all the Pop à Paris discs. Le Pop 2 includes songs by some mentioned above: Toog, Coralie Clément. Also, Holden kick ass and Mendelson is interesting and word-heavy.

I also find listening to RFI helpful in keeping up my French.
posted by dame at 7:55 AM on January 25, 2005

The following artists sing clearly, and had top 10 hits either on French-language equivalents of billboard in France or Quebec, or had hits in more alternative venues:

Les Rita Mitsouko (undefinable, 80s), Leo Ferre (melodic French love songs, 50s and 60s - very 'French'), Julien Clerc (70s pop idol), Johnny Halliday (France's answer to Elvis, 60s and 70s), Mylene Farmer (beautiful songs, 80s to now), Diane Dufresne (beautiful songs and oh what a stage presence! theatric!), Etienne Daho (french techno-pop, 90s)
posted by seawallrunner at 8:04 AM on January 25, 2005

posted by gsb at 8:15 AM on January 25, 2005

April March.
posted by katie at 8:27 AM on January 25, 2005 !
posted by gramcracker at 8:54 AM on January 25, 2005

Along the lines of Autour de Lucie, try Keren Ann, Francoiz Breut, and Benjamin Biolay.

I've been listening to Jacques Brel since I was a little kid (my parents liked him), and I think it's really helped my French. He always enunciates very clearly (although a few of the songs are famous for being sung quite fast), although I suppose he has a Belgian accent.
posted by matildaben at 8:57 AM on January 25, 2005

pink martini, julie doiron's desormais (it's not complex french or anything, but it's good for an student of the language rather than a fluent it's beautiful), jacques brel, totally seconding michel legrand's soundtrack to umbrellas of cherbourg. the sing songy ness of it for whatever reason REALLY makes it easy to understand what's being said if you're not good yet at comprehending rapid fluent speech. piaf.

i used to really enjoy listening to rufus wainwright's "rebel prince" because he sings the lyrics in english and then again in french. and it's catchy and fun to sing along to.

oh, and refer to this for some more good suggestions.
posted by ifjuly at 9:28 AM on January 25, 2005

also heartily recommending karen ann as mentioned above. the new yorker just did a write up on her too, as i recall.
posted by ifjuly at 9:29 AM on January 25, 2005

The Paris Combo does cabaret music, and are great.
posted by norm at 9:31 AM on January 25, 2005

Well I'm French, if that my help.

There's a whole wave of "new french artist" coming these days, so labels are signing even more artists singing in french to surf that wave while it lasts. Here are those who are essential these days (IMHO) and the days before.

Well, all are not essentials, I just put some very varied artists so you can look for what you enjoy... I put a ! for those I like.

!Keren Ann
!Jeanne Cherhal
!Autour de Lucie
!Linda Lemay
!Noir Désir
!Yann Tiersen
!Coralie Clément
!M (real name Mathieu Chedid)
!Paris Combo
!Dominique A
!Les Négresses Vertes
!Manu Chao
!La Mano Negra
!Emilie Simon
!Léo Ferré
!George Brassens
Vincent Delerm
Benjamin Biolay
Henri Salvador
Françoise Hardy
Claude Nougaro
Michel Polnareff
Gérald de Palmas
Jean-Jacques Goldman
Pascal Obispo
Florent Pagny

and then some...
posted by XiBe at 9:31 AM on January 25, 2005 [1 favorite]

Response by poster: Thank you all so much - this is the best ask mefi thread ever. Except I've already spent nearly 50 pounds on amazon... (Paris Combo, La Haine, Les Nubians, and the Luaka Bop compilation Cuisine Non Stop). I think I'm going to have to just bookmark this page and come back each payday. Cheers all.
posted by handee at 9:38 AM on January 25, 2005

I wouldn't recommend much french rap, if you're getting supplementary materials to learn french.

I haven't listened to much French music (although I am French Canadian), but if you like pop rock-eque music, I would definitely recommend "Vilain Pingouin", along with the solo album by the singer, Rudy Caya's "Mourir de rire". It's relatively old (90s), and unfortunately it seems only one album is available on amazon. They enunciate clearly, there's not that much patois in there (that I can hear anyway :), and it's pretty good music. Wish I could find my old albums, or at least an mp3 version.

And now that I visit their web site, I seem to have missed an album that came out in 2003, which includes a new version of a favorite song. Really need to track down those albums now :).
posted by splice at 10:09 AM on January 25, 2005

Charles Trenet has taught me a bit of French, and his music will make your heart go "Boum!" (links to NPR's "All Songs Considered").

Also see here.
posted by mds35 at 10:24 AM on January 25, 2005

The blog blowupdoll regularly posts french pop music.
posted by hootch at 12:11 PM on January 25, 2005

Wow, I had no idea so many other people liked Autour de Lucie. I (again) suggest them and Louise Attaque and possibly Khaled, though he sings partially in Arabic.
posted by librarina at 12:12 PM on January 25, 2005

I second Saian Supa Crew...and check out the blog Blogotheque, they recently posted a 2 disc mix with a bunch of great french tracks
posted by evadery at 12:22 PM on January 25, 2005

Dion chante Plamadon is quite good- early-ish Celine.
posted by stray at 12:32 PM on January 25, 2005

I fourth Coralie Clément.
posted by Utilitaritron at 2:58 PM on January 25, 2005

I'll second the recommendations for Mickey 3d, Dominique A, Les Negresses Vertes, Francoiz Breut, the Cuisine Non-Stop compilation...
posted by klausness at 4:52 PM on January 25, 2005

Also, Recto | Verso by Souvenir is worth it just for "Tous mes petits mots", their translation/cover of the Magnetic Fields' "All my little words".
posted by Utilitaritron at 8:49 PM on January 25, 2005

Has nobody mentioned Georges Brassens? It takes about 500 listens before a non-native can grasp the words, mind... even if there is a lyric sheet with the CD. But understanding him could be an ambition. Here you can even listen to Radio Brassens!
posted by altolinguistic at 2:13 AM on January 26, 2005

Best answer: There are quotas in France to broadcast French music. That was put in place at a time when English music was getting dramatically prevalent on radios and TVs, and few new french artists were signed consequetely. Things have changed nowadays, but in all case you could listen to live streams on the radio, on the Internet. Here are a few :

Ouï FM : Paris's "La Radio Rock" (belongs to virgin). Indie-pop-rock-metal-top20rock-raggae(!). Nice one.
Le Mouv' : public radio, nationwide, same programming as Ouï FM. Nice too.
Most of Radio-France's public radio are avaliable online. Most are high quality, and specific to one subject : newsradio, talkradio, classical...
Nostalgie broadcasts a lot of oldies from the 60s/70s.
ChanteFrance plays french music only. No commercials.
Chérie FM plays corny love songs, in french too I guess.
Radio Nova : electro, soul, techno, world...
RFM, mainstream, music you can drive to.
Some youngster's radio (mostly hiphop/rap/top20/sex/junk/commercials/mainstream) : NRJ, Fun Radio, Skyrock. Not my cup of tea, but hey, your choice...

And if you want the funnies :
Rire et Chanson : comic sketch (mostly stand-ups) and mainstream music
Bide et Musique : lousy 80's one-hit wonders only ;) TV series songs, forgotten singers...

That shall do it ;)
posted by XiBe at 3:27 AM on January 26, 2005

I second Charles Trenet, but mainly I'm in awe of XiBe's comprehensive guide to artists and resources.
posted by languagehat at 11:59 AM on February 21, 2005

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