By Mekenzie Primm
I took French for four years and can hardly call myself a French speaker but where the language hasn’t quite stuck, the music has. French music is so multifaceted and vibrant, plus it’s in French, so what’s not to love. Here are the five best songs my infatuation with French music has given me over the past few years. Hopefully this will spark interest in some of you.
Arguably my favorite song on this list, “Je Bois et Je Danse” is the tale of a man who desires love from a mystery woman but can’t find the right time to tell her. To wash away his sorrows, he decides to drink and dance it off.
While the French lyrics are way more eloquent than that horrendous summary (if you look them up you wont regret it), it wouldn’t even matter what lead vocalist Romain Guerret is saying because the beat of this song is absolutely infectious. You can’t help but move when you hear it. It makes me want to turn all the lights off and throw a dance party for one.
Stromae’s 2013 album Racine Carrée (Square Root) is electro-pop music at it’s finest and rivals any English language electro-pop records during this time period. While I think there might be better songs that Stromae has made, “Bâtard” is one of those songs that will stand the test of time. This song recounts the double standards that are so present in today’s society. If you’re not one then you’re obviously the other and there’s no inbetween.
Stromae fights back at this, though, and says “not one nor the other, I am, was and will remain myself.” King. Some other great Stromae songs are: “Formidable,” “Papaoutai,” and “Alors on Dance” featuring Kanye West for French speakers and frat boys alike.
‘80s new-wave French lovers arise! Your time has come. Téléphone’s last album Un Autre Monde (Another World) is one of the best new-wave albums out there and the title track, which I have picked, is a stand out against so many good songs. If there’s one thing French people are extremely gifted in, it’s got to be lyricism. Just like the past two songs, “Un Autre Monde” is a song about dreaming of another world and the whimsy that surrounds escapism.
While the lyrics are amazing, lead singer Jean-Louis Aubert’s raspy vocals and Richard Kolinka’s punchy drums are really the things that make this song so amazing. If you’re even remotely interested in new-wave, I would give this song a listen.
There’s not a lot out there about BLVCK MAMBA but the French rapper’s 2019 mixtape Ecailles noires is worth the listen. His music is raunchy, sinister, raw and gritty. The production value is not super great but I think that’s part of the appeal; he’s the equivalent of an American SoundCloud rapper but in all the best ways. He sounds like a more melodic/cogerent JPEGMafia to me. Is there better French rap out there, absolutely, but the typical rappers such as Booba and Maître Gims are old and tired.
I like seeing new artists in the mix and I feel like BLVCK MAMBA is going to only get better with time. I can’t lie though, Booba and Maître Gims do have some pretty great songs. If you don’t like BLVCK MAMBA, check out Gambi, Heuss L’enfoiré or Hamza.
The world of French electronic music is quite expansive and extremely overwhelming due to the sheer amount of artists, but one stand out artist in particular is Yelle. “Ce Jeu” is off of Yelle’s 2007 album Pop Up yet it remains fresh and captivating over a decade later.
Bouncy 808’s and an irresistable melody are the recipe for this extremely catchy song. You can’t help but dance when you hear it but beware, it will be stuck in your head for the rest of the day if you listen to it. I wouldn’t be mad about that though.
Phoenix, M83, Daft Punk, Breakbot and Angelique Kidjo are some of my favorite French artists that didn’t make the cut because their songs are in English or some other language.
Overall, this is just a fraction of the amazing French songs that are out there so expand your music library and listen to some foreign music! You never know what you’ll find.
Featured image by Mekenzie Primm via Canva.