I feel that, coming from England, a major player in musical history, France, often gets overlooked. Mainly this is due to the language barrier, but probably also due to commercialism and the fact that Britain and America are pretty strong in the field of pop and rock music.
However, if you take a look, and don’t mind listening to someone singing in a language that you don’t understand (you won’t find many singalong’s here) then there is much to admire! Check this out…
Edith Piaf – Le Vie En Rose
I first heard this song when I watched Saving Private Ryan, and noted how lovely it was. I didn’t think any more of it, until Marion Cottilard played Piaf in the film of the same name as her biggest hit. Possibly the most famous French song of all?
Serge Gainsbourg – Melody
Many would say his most well known hit J’Taime Moi Non Plus, but for pure musical brilliance the first track on Gainsbourg’s 1971 album Histoire De Melody Nelson takes some beating. It has been sampled numerous times by the likes of David Holmes.
Francoise Hardy – Les Temps L’Amour
I have an infatuation with Hardy, both musically and with her in general. She is beautiful, talented, a style icon AND French! What’s not to like. And this song features in Wes Anderson’s Moonrise Kingdom which makes it even cooler than it already was! If I could wind back to any moment in time, it would be mid-sixties Paris and I would introduce myself to Francoise!
France Gall – Laisse Tomber Les Filles
A song written by Serge Gainsbourg and a big hit for Gall. It is quite a rocky little number compared to her normal ye-ye pop. The song in question was covered in the English language by April March and featured on the Death Proof soundtrack. This version is cool though, in a sixties way.
Jacques Dutronc – Et Moit, Et Moi, Et Moi
The French Ray Davies apparently (I obviously don’t understand the lyrics so wouldn’t know). Dutronc was big in France in the sixties, and even went into acting and hooked up with Francoise Hardy. And he churned out some decent garage rock as well, this being a number two hit in France.
Joe Dassin – Les Champs Elysee
This cheerful chanson number never fails to put a smile on my face. I would have no idea of what else Dassin sings, but the fact that this featured at the end of Wes Anderson’s The Darjeeling Limited means he must be pretty good. Anderson doesn’t do bad soundtracks.
April March – Cet Air La
This one is a bit of a cheat because April March is actually American, but she does some great covers of French chanson and ye-ye hits of the sixties. Especially on her mini album Chick Habit. Her english language version of Laisse Tomber Les Filles, retitled Chick Habit, went on to feature in Quentin Tarantino’s Death Proof. This is a cover of a France Gall song which has a real hazy, dream like quality to it.
Phoenix – Too Young
A cracker of a single released in 2000 and found on the Lost In Translation soundtrack (singer Thomas Mars is married to Sofia Coppola). Phoenix are, I guess, the equivalent of The Strokes. They followed this up with further successes such as 1901 and Lizstomania.
Daft Punk – Around The World
Everyone’s favourite French, dance robots. Daft Punk have been around for ages, knocking out some big hits, culminating in last years worldwide mega smash Get Lucky. I actually think my favourite is this cool, but slightly repetitive number that was a hit back in 1997. It reminds me of mates holidays in Ibiza when I was a carefree teenager.
Air – Le Soleil Est Pres De Moi
Air were pretty big in the late nineties, with their release Moon Safari. I actually preferred the EP of their singles released around that time, Premiers Symptomes. The song I have chosen is just a really nice, chilled listen, perfect for headphones in bed at night.
M83 – Midnight City
The newest act on the list, but I heard this song just after watching the film Drive, and it has that similar 80’s neon feel as that film’s lauded soundtrack. It’s a great song for a night time drive with it’s cutting snyth and cool vocals.