French music recommendations needed!
June 24, 2014 5:16 AM   Subscribe

Hi! I'm traveling to a french immersion program this summer for 5 weeks. Nothing but French everything is allowed...even music. Anyone have some recommendations for great french music (with lyrics)? I've listened to Yelle, and have exhausted my Carla Bruni playlist. All genres are welcomed, but I'd especially love some contemporary stuff! Merci!
posted by LemonGardot to Writing & Language (53 answers total) 55 users marked this as a favorite
For contemporary yet not cheesy current Francophone music, I can recommend Cœur de pirate wholeheartedly and I also quite like Damien Robitaille also!
posted by Kitteh at 5:31 AM on June 24, 2014 [2 favorites]

It's not contemporary, but he's still played on most French radio stations here: check out music by Jean-Jacques Goldman. Great lyrics, wonderful for learning French, and a massive, varied discography that will give you dozens of hours of listening. He also wrote a lot of music for Céline Dion in the 80s and 90s.
posted by fraula at 5:35 AM on June 24, 2014

Benjamin Biolay, Keren Ann's earlier albums (she sings in English now), Yann Tiersen, Sebastian Tellier, Francoiz Breut and if you want to go older yé-yé is incredible and still sound contemporary to me. Jacques Dutronc, Michel Polnareff are the two places I'd start.

For streaming, listen to Virgin Scène Française (I think it's still running).
posted by wingless_angel at 5:35 AM on June 24, 2014 [1 favorite]

If some Franglais is ok, here are a few I like:
- Peter Peter
- Belmondo Regal
- Gros Mene
- Avec pas d'Casque
- Bertran Belin

And I heartily recommend Said the Gramophone, the music blog where I pick up most of my French-Canadian music.
posted by cocoagirl at 5:41 AM on June 24, 2014 [3 favorites]

Seconding Cœur de Pirate! I'll add: BB Brunes (their albums all vary stylistically, but center around pop/rock) and Marie Mai (pop). My sister likes Shy'm (pop/R&B).

And Mika occasionally sings in French as well!

The Billboard chart for France tends to contain a smattering of French language songs, so that's another good resource to see what's popular right now.

Bonne chance!
posted by Kronios at 5:48 AM on June 24, 2014 [1 favorite]

Francis Cabrel is super super amazing.... I used to listen to him years ago....

And lately, I was turned on to this little song- I LOVE IT! Find it on youtube!

Indila - Dernière Danse (Paul Damixie`s Private Remix)
posted by misspony at 5:52 AM on June 24, 2014

Stereo Total often sings in French.

I'm not sure if Herman Dune has songs in French, but band members did write songs for Françoiz Breut's album Une Saison Volée, so it's probably worth checking out.

Not contemporary, but really fun: France Gall - Poupée de cire, poupée de son
posted by neushoorn at 5:57 AM on June 24, 2014 [1 favorite]

I enjoy Manu Chao's songs in French. Sibérie m'était contéee is entirely in French and the lyrics are intelligible.

My favorite band that sings in French is Amadou & Mariam, from Mali. (Who collaborated with Manu Chao on an album.) They mix French with Bamana and a few songs have some English, but there is a lot of French. Here is an example. Sorry, I can't preview the videos here - internet is too terrible.

Zaho is an Algerian R&B singer if you're looking for something a bit more pop. I'm not too familiar with her work; I've only heard a couple of her hits.

Along the R&B line, I prefer Soha to Zaho. I have one of her albums, and it's pretty good.

Putumayo has a couple of good French-heavy compilations. Putumayo Presents: Paris has music that fits with your Carla Bruni, Amylie, etc. Putumayo Presents: Quebec is the same, but for Quebec. (There is one song in a First Nations language, IIRC.)
posted by Kutsuwamushi at 5:58 AM on June 24, 2014

A few very mixed recommandations with some good or sometimes very contemporary French language (samples in link):

Yves Jamait
Keny Arkana
Romane Serda

The few 3 based on the fact that you mentionned Carla Bruni.

You can find most french lyrics by typing the song name title and artist name and "paroles" in Google.
posted by rom1 at 5:58 AM on June 24, 2014 [2 favorites]

Check out:

Laurent Garnier
Marc Lavoine
posted by chillmost at 6:00 AM on June 24, 2014 [1 favorite]

I really liked Zebda - I haven't heard any of their recent stuff, but Le bruit et l'odeur was considered quite good when it came out, and I like the whole album with "Tomber la chemise" on it, Essence ordinaire. I felt like both of these really boosted my vocabulary.

And while it's not contemporary at all, I really like Francoise Hardy's Vogue Years compilation. "Non, ce n'est pas un reve" and "Je changerais d'avis" are particular favorites. She has a really lovely spooky voice in those early recordings. Interestingly, she did actually rise from poverty and marginalization to become a pop star.

And it's not pop at all, but if you like this kind of thing it hits the spot - Jean Ferrat sing-speaking the poems of surrealist poet Louis Aragon. (I got into this because the girl in a Godard film - Bande a part, I think - recites part of "Un jour, un jour".) Un jour, un jour" is...I mean, as far as I can tell....about the rise of fascism in Europe, I mean it references the death of Lorca. Again, I felt like this boosted my vocabulary.
posted by Frowner at 6:07 AM on June 24, 2014 [3 favorites]

Charles Trenet is wonderful. You can find lyrics to all his stuff online, with translations. It's light fluff, but beautiful light fluff.
posted by colin_l at 6:32 AM on June 24, 2014 [1 favorite]

Plastic Bertrand
posted by Thorzdad at 6:41 AM on June 24, 2014 [2 favorites]

I recommend Francoise Hardy too, but for someone contemporary try Zaz. I particularly enjoy her song "Je Veux".
posted by travellingincognito at 6:42 AM on June 24, 2014 [1 favorite]

If Canadian French is okay:
Ingrid St-Pierre
Marie Mai
posted by gregvr at 6:55 AM on June 24, 2014

nthing Stromae he's the best
posted by St. Peepsburg at 7:01 AM on June 24, 2014

Gotta have Les Négresses Vertes.
posted by Decani at 7:05 AM on June 24, 2014 [2 favorites]

Nolwenn Leroy
posted by grouse at 7:08 AM on June 24, 2014

Hip-hop! French, Quebecois. My very favorite is Saïan Supa Crew's "X Raisons" which is kind of old.

Is kids' music of interest? Try Dominique Dimey.
posted by mkb at 7:14 AM on June 24, 2014

Please also consider French Canadian Mylene Farmer. Her albums Ainsi Soit Je..., and Anamorphosee are melodramatic, witty, and brilliant.
posted by travellingincognito at 7:16 AM on June 24, 2014

I know you're looking at contemporary stuff, but a familiarity with some of the older singers will help you get cultural references. Edith Piaf, Serge Gainsbourg, Charles Trenet, Charles Aznavour, Yves Montand, Jacques Brel all have songs that are cultural touchstones. Watch La Vie en Rose (title in French: La Môme) for the fascinating story of Edith Piaf's life, which will help you put her music into context.
posted by Liesl at 7:19 AM on June 24, 2014 [1 favorite]

Rap is extremely popular in France - I've read that the French are the #2 spenders on hip hop music (after the United States). La Fouine is a well-known Arab/French rapper/singer who has his own reality show. Rohff and Booba are also popular, though I don't like them as much, too gritty/edgy for my taste. MC Solaar is a lot more chill.
posted by desjardins at 7:33 AM on June 24, 2014

Seconding Liesl's recommendation to gain at least a passing familiarity with the classic singers, to whom you might also add Leo Ferré (though I find him too wistful to take in all but the smallest doses) and Georges Brassens. Brigitte Fontaine is interesting. And I'll also second the recommendation of Ridan. If you like folk/traditional, Malicorne.
posted by brianogilvie at 7:35 AM on June 24, 2014

oh - you can find most of the lyrics on Rap Genius. Par exemple.
posted by desjardins at 7:35 AM on June 24, 2014

When I was a teenager, I loved (loved loved) Indochine. They are still around, but I think have become much like The Cure has become (take that comment as you will...).
posted by mamabear at 7:37 AM on June 24, 2014

Arthur H, who is on this excellent compilation on David Byrne's label.
Jacques Dutronc
definitely Serge Gainsbourg
Brigitte Bardot (video slightly nsfw)
Stereolab has a few songs in French
Brigitte Fontaine
posted by hydrophonic at 7:40 AM on June 24, 2014 [1 favorite]

Some random tunes I like:

Lisa LeBlanc – although your teachers will wonder where you picked up that Acadien lilt
Fred Pellerin
Karim Ouellet
Polo et les méchants moinôs
posted by zadcat at 7:46 AM on June 24, 2014

-M- (Matthieu Chedid) does some good rock music. If you've seen Un monstre á Paris, he's the voice of Francœur (and if you haven't seen it, I highly recommend it).
posted by PlasticSupernova at 8:02 AM on June 24, 2014 [1 favorite]

I don't have access to YouTube at work so I can't give you links, but here are a few recommendations by genre:

Rai Music
I love Rai music - If you've ever heard Desert Rose by Sting and Cheb Mami - Cheb Mami is the Rai singer. Rai music is genrally a mix of arabic and french.

A song I really love is Just Un Oui by Amine.
There are quite a few great Rai singers - Cheb Mami for one (tho it's a little more Arabic than French).

Then there's Khaled - who sings Didi (I don't recall how much French there is on that one)

French Pop and Rock
Matmatah - Their La Ouche album is great! - especially L'Apologie and Lambe An Dro
Albums by Nadiya - Changer Les Choses and 16/9
Albums by Gregory Lemarchal

French Rap and Hip-Hop
MC Solaar - I don't generally listen to rap - french or not, but MC Solaar's music is great!
posted by rippersid at 9:19 AM on June 24, 2014 [1 favorite]

posted by melissasaurus at 9:46 AM on June 24, 2014 [1 favorite]

More Stereolab: 1 2 3 4 5 6

Lætitia Sadier also has a couple of solo albums and a side project called Monade, but I'm not familiar with them.
posted by hydrophonic at 11:01 AM on June 24, 2014

Thirding MC Solaar ("Bouge de là" was the single that made him famous in 1991). Great lyrics!
posted by Dragonness at 11:02 AM on June 24, 2014

Mostly Quebec music:

Could be called "classics", and I would agree: Jean-Pierre Ferland, esp. the album Jaune; Richard Desjardins; Plume Latraverse; Paul Piché; Robert Charlebois; Harmonium; Les Colocs; Diane Dufresne; Jacques Dutronc; les Rita Mitsouko.

Cheesy but fun: Most of the 1960s yéyé stuff: Les Sultans, Les Classels, César et ses Romains; Musicals: Starmania, Pied de Poule.

Harder/weirder: Offenbach, Corbeau, Grim Skunk, Groovy Aardvark, Les Marmottes Aplaties; Mononc' Serge.
posted by Monday, stony Monday at 11:03 AM on June 24, 2014

Both of these musical styles are not French-as-spoken-in-France, but here you go:


Cajun (anybody in the "renaissance" section is going to have some stuff in some version of French)
posted by SuperSquirrel at 11:40 AM on June 24, 2014

I'm a fan of Karkwa (French Canadian Indie Rock). Their album Les Chemins de ver won the 2010 Polaris prize and is worth a listen.
posted by lookoutbelow at 12:23 PM on June 24, 2014 [2 favorites]

La numero un en France: Sur Ma Route (avec paroles)
posted by Mister Bijou at 12:41 PM on June 24, 2014 [1 favorite]

Check out the movies Les Chansons d'Amour and Les Bien Amies. Both are musicals featuring the actor Loius Garrel (who--in my opinion--has a lovely singing voice). The soundtracks for both are available on Spotify. I particularly like Les chiens ne font pas de chats, De bonnes raisons, Ici Londres, and Qui aimes-tu. I also recommend MC Solaar.
posted by kaybdc at 7:59 PM on June 24, 2014

Emilie Simon is kind of poppy electronic dance-y. I have her album "Végétal".

If French Canadian is allowed, I love Le Vent du Nord, which is French Canadian folk dance music (most with words).
posted by that girl at 8:05 PM on June 24, 2014 [1 favorite]

Boris Vian for fun old French jazz.

Mylene Farmer for cheesy modern-ish pop.
posted by vespabelle at 8:38 PM on June 24, 2014

I couldn't recommend Mathieu Boogaerts enough. I've been listening to all his records a lot lately. Lyrics and music are simple and funny. Pardonne / Tu es / I love you / Las Vegas / ondulé...
posted by putasockinit at 12:28 AM on June 25, 2014

Stromae - Formidable
posted by kudzu at 4:43 AM on June 25, 2014

Celine Dion has recorded quite a few albums in French (including 2012's Sans attendre).

Also Zachary Richard.
posted by Amy NM at 6:33 AM on June 25, 2014

Some Oldies: Serge Gainsbourg is the French Bob Dylan; Jacques Brel is the Belgian Shakespeare; Jacques Dutronc, tres high; Francoise Hardy has a personal message for you.

A special dance treat: Marcia Baila by Les Rita Mitsouko.
posted by ovvl at 6:07 PM on June 25, 2014

You know about Reddit's EcouteCa, yes?

I am also apparently the only person in the world who liked the French Eurovision song this year: Moustache by Twin Twin. I suspect I am responsible for approximately 300,000 of the YouTube views for this song. I really can't be helped. But it had been a couple of weeks since I'd listened to it, and now that you've asked this question, I'm going to have to listen to it again another 43,000 times. And I was doing so well...
posted by jph at 9:09 PM on June 25, 2014

Jorane is not to everyone's taste but give it a try, e.g.

Harmonium was already mentioned, but it's fairly easy to understand the lyrics and it is soothing, which you can't say about Jorane. e.g.
posted by Rumple at 9:10 PM on June 25, 2014

How about OrelSan's "Ils Sont Cools." That one always makes me giggle.
posted by jph at 9:12 PM on June 25, 2014

Hey, I was just in France! Maître Gims is all the rage there, he's lots of fun. Keen'V's also very popular if a little goofy, "J'aimerais Trop" was stuck in my head for ages (the link has lyrics too, good for learning).

Not entirely in French - Arielle Dombasle has a lovely voice, and sings a few French/English and French songs on C'est Si Bon. Amadou and Mariam sing in French and various African languages, I highly recommend Dimanche à Bamako.
posted by Devika at 4:53 PM on June 26, 2014

Seconding Keny Arkana and Amadou and Mariam! Also, what about Les Cowboys Fringants? And may I recommend some songs from French musicals, such as Mozart l'Opera Rock and 1789 - Ca ira mon amour. And for more Quebecois groups, what about Jean Leloup's I Lost My Baby and M'accrocher by Loco Locass? I also really liked Francafrique by Tiken Jah Fakoly and Sinsemilla with Tout le bonheur du monde.
posted by movicont at 12:48 AM on June 27, 2014

Seconding Shy'm, Alizee and Zaz. I also like Papaoutai by Stromae.
posted by EatMyHat at 5:34 AM on June 28, 2014

Indila, "Dernière Danse" (the original version, not the remix linked above).

NPR says: "A charming newcomer tweaks Charles Aznavour — wordplay on "Douce France," a rhythm from "Parce Que Tu Crois" — but 85 million YouTube hits later, she stands on her own feet."
posted by inigo2 at 12:19 PM on June 30, 2014

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