French language songs in Spotify
December 11, 2011 1:39 PM   Subscribe

Calling all francophile music lovers: recommendations for modern french language songs.

I am continuing a nearly endless and many year long quest to improve my French.

It occurred to me that I listen to a lot of music and I could use French songs to learn French (if I liked the songs).

My tastes are quite varied. The only French language music I listen to is Khaled, Rachid Taha (obviously not all in French) and Camille, Emilie Simon and a little of Olivia Ruiz (but the only ones of those I really like are Khaled and Camille). That is all that is in my currently very sparse French language playlist. I also love Phoenix, but though they are French, I've never heard any French language music by them.

I do, however, listen to a very wide range of musical styles however and am very open to very different stuff stylistically.

What I want is:
1. Relatively modern music (last 10 - 20 years) or absolute classics from older years.
2. Preferably available on Spotify (I listen to music almost exclusively through Spotify, and my playlist is in Spotify). Also, the great ListDJ extension for Spotify lets me easily access the lyrics for these songs without having to search for them.

Thanks a lot!
posted by inbetweener to Society & Culture (53 answers total) 55 users marked this as a favorite
Jacques Brel is good to listen to as he half speaks a lot of his songs! I don't know if he's on Spotify, though, and I think his stuff is older than the last 20 years.

Have you tried a French internet radio station?
posted by stenoboy at 1:45 PM on December 11, 2011

I love Zaz. Plus I can understand a decent amount of her lyrics. The other Frenchies I've listened to on Spotify are Kyo -- don't love them, but they're not bad.
posted by DoubleLune at 1:48 PM on December 11, 2011 [1 favorite]

Check out April March -- she's American, but sings French retro-y pop.
posted by Mrs. Rattery at 1:49 PM on December 11, 2011

Political associations notwithstanding, I love Carla Bruni's music.
posted by padraigin at 1:50 PM on December 11, 2011 [2 favorites]

For softer female pop songs, I like Keren Ann and Coralie Clement.

If you're a hip hop fan, check out Hocus Pocus.
posted by fishmasta at 1:50 PM on December 11, 2011 [1 favorite]

I'd love to send you Spotify links, but it's not available in this country.

Three of my favourites: Bertrand Belin, Yael Naïm, and Ingrid St-Pierre. Not all of Yael's songs are in French, but many are.

If you can stream CJBC-FM's Espace musique, you'll get spiffy French choons.
posted by scruss at 1:51 PM on December 11, 2011

Coeur de pirate just released a new album.
posted by just_ducky at 1:54 PM on December 11, 2011 [3 favorites]

Let's see what I have on my playlist. YMMV.

Indochine (a little on the older side, but...)
Etienne Daho
posted by vetala at 1:55 PM on December 11, 2011

Spotify is also not available to me.

But as an anglophone Quebecer who loves French music from here, some of my favourites:

One thousand times, one million times, Coeur du Pirate. Ah, I see just_ducky also recommended her on preview. Seconded!

Dumas is really good as well.

And Damian Robataille: he's a great musician, and also a brilliant lyricist with a rapier wit.
posted by Shepherd at 1:58 PM on December 11, 2011

Axelle Red
posted by three blind mice at 2:02 PM on December 11, 2011 [1 favorite]

So far as the classics go, anybody that's interested in modern French music should listen to Serge Gainsbourg. I don't know if they're on Spotify or what, but I would start off with Histoire de Melody Nelson, which is probably his best and most influential album, and then maybe one of his early albums with Alain Goraguer like L'Étonnant Serge Gainsbourg.
posted by strangely stunted trees at 2:05 PM on December 11, 2011 [1 favorite]

Benjamin Biolay for modern. Keren Ann's first three albums (she mostly sings in English now). Miosec.

Jacques Dutronc
Michel Polnareff

There's many many more, but these will get you connected to much more from their respective eras.
posted by wingless_angel at 2:08 PM on December 11, 2011

posted by Obscure Reference at 2:10 PM on December 11, 2011

Somewhat embarrassing, but true: I studied for (and ended up aceing!) my Grade 12 French listening exam by listening to Les Cowboys Fringants' Break Syndical on infinite repeat. It was something about how the lyrics were, in general, clearly enunciated and were phrased in coherent sentences, as I recall.
posted by btfreek at 2:13 PM on December 11, 2011 [1 favorite]

oops, italics
posted by btfreek at 2:15 PM on December 11, 2011

Malajube and Pas Chic Chic are great. Also, Stereolab (no Spotify access here either)
posted by TheGoodBlood at 2:27 PM on December 11, 2011

Beyond what has already been mentioned, here are some things in my iTunes library:

Recent stuff: I like Ridan, Vincent Delerm, Thomas Fersen. I find April March, mentioned above, annoying, though kind of catchy.

A little older: Brigitte Fontaine and Louise Attaque (which is the name of a band, not a person). Renaud has been around for a while and still releases albums from time to time. (Boucan d'enfer is a good album from 2002.)

Classics include, Charles Trenet, Charles Aznavour (the Frank Sinatra of France), Edith Piaf, Georges Brassens, Léo Ferré (who is a little precious, but worth knowing anyway), Serge Reggiani, and Anne Sylvestre.
posted by brianogilvie at 2:34 PM on December 11, 2011 [1 favorite]

Charlotte Gainsbourg (Serge Gainsbourg's daughter) sings in both French and English, and is generally awesome.
posted by scody at 2:49 PM on December 11, 2011

MC Solaar

Oh, and Elle me dit by Mika, which has been stuck in my head for three weeks.
posted by qxntpqbbbqxl at 3:09 PM on December 11, 2011 [1 favorite]

Seconding Charlotte Gainsbourg!

Sometimes you can catch Canadian artists like Feist or Julie Doiron singing in french.

Yelle's music is really fun to listen to and pretty easy to understand/sing back.

What about artists like CocoRosie and Tender Forever? I'm not actually sure if they have songs in french though.
posted by _superconductor at 3:11 PM on December 11, 2011 [1 favorite]

oops, uploaded the wrong Yelle song.
posted by _superconductor at 3:13 PM on December 11, 2011

Definitely try Mika and Yelle as mentioned above. Also, to find new French music, both modern and old classics, check out the YouTube channels Clips en Français Langue Étrangère 1, 3, 4, and 5 (#2 was shut down). All together, these channels have several hundred music videos in French, and each one video two versions: one captioned (in French) and one not captioned, to help you practice your listening comprehension.
posted by datarose at 3:21 PM on December 11, 2011

posted by pompomtom at 3:21 PM on December 11, 2011

I really love Ben l'Oncle Soul and Colonel Reyel (and you can learn it with the lyrics!)
Ben is more "soul" music (as interpreted by the French) and Colonel is a popular rapper in the radio.
posted by raccoon409 at 3:23 PM on December 11, 2011

someone already said Damien Robitaille, but i had to say it again. when i heard his album "L'homme qui me ressemble" i actually wanted to go into teaching so i could teach french and have the students listen to this album.

also Ariane Moffat (careful, automatic music on webpage)

also, Jean Leloup is super important to Quebec (maybe start with an easy tune in Franglais - i lost my baby

karkwa are really popular in Quebec also, kind of bleak but amazing.

bonne chance!
posted by andreapandrea at 3:38 PM on December 11, 2011

I like French rap - MC Solaar, Doc Gyneco, Oxmo Puccino. I also like Carla Bruni, Corneille, and Benjamin Biolay; Melody Gardot are Madeleine Payroux are both jazz singers. They are all available on iTunes.
posted by shoesietart at 3:39 PM on December 11, 2011

I'm not fond of language learning from pop music, it's often really muddled. Think of how many English-language lyrics are misunderstood by native speakers. I like movies with subtitles a lot better.

That said, Mourir Demain, the Pascal Obispo/Natasha St.-Pier hit from a couple of years ago, is easy to understand and a nice, fun verb tense review.
posted by gimonca at 3:47 PM on December 11, 2011

I like Je ne t'aime plus and other songs by Manu Chao, but he switches between English, French, Spanish and several other languages, so might be confusing for learning purposes.
posted by jacalata at 4:30 PM on December 11, 2011

I like Pierre Lapointe.
posted by costanza at 4:44 PM on December 11, 2011

All time classics are Georges Brassens and Jacques Brel. The advantage is that they both worked a lot on their lyrics, so you can enjoy a very rich language.

Why not Les Têtes Raides as well, or Brigitte Fontaine...
posted by that_guy at 4:48 PM on December 11, 2011

Paris Combo
Vincent Delerme
Alexis HK
posted by idiomatika at 5:49 PM on December 11, 2011

The BB Brunes have a modern pop/rock style and are fun to listen to. Carla Bruni and Christophe Maé are also both great, with more of a laid-back music style. I believe all are on Spotify.

Of course I have to throw in a good word for Edith Piaf as well!
posted by Kronios at 5:52 PM on December 11, 2011

I'm not sure if they are in spotify but les chads lapins are a retro French jazz. They've got a Woody Allen thing going on and are totally awesome.
posted by askmehow at 6:28 PM on December 11, 2011

Oh, man! How could I have forgotten the amazing Acadian Franglish hybrid of Radio Radio? If you can make it through Nine-Piece Luggage Set (third song down on their Web player) without at least tapping your toes, I'll be amazed.

Not strictly French, but you need a lot of French to get it.
posted by Shepherd at 6:31 PM on December 11, 2011

Sanseverino? Jessica Fichot?
posted by mumkin at 6:45 PM on December 11, 2011

MC Solaar

Oh hell yes.

I'm kinda surprised no one's mentioned Francis Cabrel yet. Finding his stuff on Spotify is hit or miss (at least in the US), but he's great. (E.g..)
posted by asterix at 6:47 PM on December 11, 2011

Aldebert, Benebar, and Albin de la Simon are some of my favorite Francophone artists.
posted by naturalog at 7:14 PM on December 11, 2011

Metal Urbain comes to mind. It's easy to understand what the singer is saying, and it's pretty great early electro.
posted by ifjuly at 7:22 PM on December 11, 2011

Oh, and it's mega simple French (I don't think she was a native speaker at first, and she's Canadian) but Julie Doiron's Desormais is a total winter classic. Won a Juno award IIRC even.
posted by ifjuly at 7:23 PM on December 11, 2011

This is a wide spattering of genres (mostly pretty pop/rock/electronic) and countries (some of these are actually American bands that sing in french) but they might be good leads for you. Here's the Francophone music I've got in my library:

Nous Non Plus
seconding Les Chauds Lapins
Les Sans Culottes
Vive La Fête
Christie Laume's stuff is really hard to track down (this track on Spotify is the first full track I've found), but she got into singing by being the sister of Edith Piaf's husband and living with them - neat story!

Woo, realized a bunch of these have new albums I haven't listened to, yay.
posted by savagerose at 7:51 PM on December 11, 2011

Autour de Lucie.
posted by sweetkid at 7:55 PM on December 11, 2011

Nthing Madeline Peyroux, Carla Bruni, and Coeur de pirate. Adding Yannick Noah.
posted by lunaazul at 9:07 PM on December 11, 2011

You'll end up with a crazy accent if you learn to speak French from Jacques Brel and La botine souriante. Awesome, but crazy.

Mes Aïeux sing about contemporary issues in the style of traditional Quebecois music.

Lhasa de Sela sings in French, in addition to English and Spanish.

Not all of Stereolab's songs are in French, but, hey, if you want to be able to talk about the Situationists in French, they're your band.

France Gall is a kind of French Petula Clark and meets virtually none of the criteria you mention, but she's a fun kitschy throwback if you're ever in the mood.

I am also among the un-Spotified, so I can't speak to the Spotification of these artists.
posted by looli at 11:30 PM on December 11, 2011 [1 favorite]

XM Radio has a couple of french language music stations. I believe it is French-Canadian, so there may be dialect differences.
posted by gjc at 5:48 AM on December 12, 2011

If you like Khaled and Rachid Taha you might like Natacha Atlas who also sings in French and Arabic. She also does a lot of covers of Françoise Hardy songs.
Mish Fadilak
Mon amie la rose
Ne Me Quitte Pas
Quand Je Ferme Les Yeux
Le cor, le vent
Le Goût Du Pain
posted by jihaan at 7:41 AM on December 12, 2011

Also try Manau and Keny Arkana.
posted by movicont at 9:55 AM on December 12, 2011

Some of my favorites....

Malajube (already mentioned) has a number of awesome poppy, upbeat songs (and more recently a bit darker, weirder stuff).

The song Ca Plane Pour Moi is a classic, and one of my favorites ever.

Renan Luce
writes beautiful, clever lyrics with lovely guitar accompaniment.
posted by non-kneebiter at 11:46 AM on December 12, 2011

oh, and I forgot Claude Francois who I think safely comes under 'absolute classics'.
posted by jacalata at 12:42 PM on December 12, 2011

I love Suarez. They're a Belgian group who sing in French. Lots of acoustic guitar, and a lead singer with a gentle voice.

Here's their YT channel and a few of my favorite songs:

On Attend
Je t'ai toi
Juste pour voir (with Stéphanie Crayencour)

And this is my absolute favorite song in any language:


Other stuff I like:

Joyce Jonathan - Je ne sais pas
Stromae - Alors on danse
La Fouine- Veni, Vidi, Vici (rap)
Gaetan Roussel - Dis-moi encore que tu m'aimes
posted by desjardins at 5:08 PM on December 12, 2011

*checks iTunes*
Karkwa, Yann Perreau, Charlote Gainsbourg, Daniel Bélanger, Grand Corps Malade (beautiful slam if you're into that), Jean-Pierre Ferland, Jean Leloup, Katerine (HILARIOUS music), Radio Radio (really funny too, but even to french people it's hard to get the meaning all at once, there's a lot of regional slang), Stefie Shock
posted by kitsuloukos at 8:44 PM on December 12, 2011

A good way to keep on top of French music (at least the Québec scene), is to follow Musique Plus' top hits. I imagine must have something similar, if you want music more directly from France.
posted by Milau at 9:10 AM on December 13, 2011

Response by poster: Thank you all for the great suggestions. Unfortunately many of these are not on Spotify, but I am still checking them out on Youtube and elsewhere. Thanks again, Hivemind!
posted by inbetweener at 2:17 PM on December 13, 2011

Looks like no one's mentioned Dominique A yet...
posted by klausness at 4:45 PM on December 19, 2011

« Older i can haz sanity?!   |   Will it go round in circles until it stops? Newer »
This thread is closed to new comments.