What Do You Think of French Music?

Sometimes during a conversation on French culture, people ask me whether I like French music. A popular consensus among the French people I’ve spoken with is that contemporary French music is lacking. They like their classic Jacques Brel, Alain Souchon, and Georges Brassens (do they love Brassens), but a number of them listen to more music in English than in their native language. That’s not to say there aren’t contemporary French hits on the radio in France; I heard musicians like Christine and the Queens, Black M, BB Brunes, and Julien Doré played multiple times a day. Still, you’d more easily find fans of Rihanna, Pink, Beyonce, Mika, Coldplay, and Jay Z on the streets of Paris.

I like French music, though! Usually my first answer to the music question is Alex Beaupain. Most of the time this is met with no recognition. Alex Beaupain has his own albums, but I discovered him through the songs he wrote for Christophe Honoré’s musical film “Chansons d’amour.” I once attended a concert put on by him in collaboration with actress Fanny Ardant and singer Camélia Jordana. It was a day that I was feeling down and on the spur of the moment purchased a ticket to their show for that night in Paris. It certainly did the trick.

Without further ado, here is a short selection of my favorite French songs. These lean towards the softer side, pop and piano music.

Alex Beaupain and Camélia Jordana- Avant la haine
Tété- Petite chanson
Berry- Le bonheur
Zaz- La fée
Vincent Delerm- Il fait si beau
Gerald de Palmas- Au bord de l’eau
L.E.J- La dalle

Why does current French music get a bad rap among its own people? Or is this different from what you’ve observed?

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4 thoughts on “What Do You Think of French Music?

  1. I guess I’m a good example because except for De Palmas, I don’t know any of your favourite!

    I think most French are late adopters, unlike North Americans who enjoy everything new. French are more conservative, they “respect” artists who have a long career. North Americans like new blood, even if it’s just a faze. I’m just oversimplifying here!

    • Interesting, possibly true theory! I remember when I mentioned to a French friend that my sister’s favorite church in Paris was Sacré-Coeur, his response was, But it’s so new! As if being “new” (1914) means it’s not as good as the centuries-old churches…

      On the other hand, new American music is very popular in France (and everywhere).

  2. This post is well timed – to me, and refreshing, too. I grew up with both American and French hits in the 80s – only to see the difference way later. We definitely are several levels below the Anglo saxon world when it comes to music (I include Brit pop and alternative 80s music in there) – and yes, we keep sticking and stalling to our old classics – Brel, Brassens and newcomers only release copycat EPs, inspired by this golden age of a certain poetry. No French Dylan, no-no (a classic, too).
    Yet, in some musical currents, a certain French ‘flair’ (yes I dare say it) arises: Etienne Daho for instance has been quite constant in his effortless elegance throughout the decades now. I also like Paradis as a band, this electro style totally embraces a certain picture of Paris, to me.
    The French artists you are mentioning represent a large, popular trend that does not mimic US based RnB (gosh) but to me, they cannot reach the talent you guys know how to nurture across the pond. Our French artists and music are, with best effort, nothing more than ‘Terroir’…

    • Thanks for sharing your thoughts! You have a scope of a couple of decades and it’s interesting that you’ve observed changes overtime. The French artists I like correspond with the kind of American music I listen to– singer-songwriters who play instruments. Some of these American musicians are mainstream in that they are on the radio, but not to the stadium concert level of Beyonce. French artists like Black M are more along the lines of American rap and RnB and have achieved success in France, but as you implied there aren’t as many of them and not to the same level as U.S. artists. I think there’s some real contemporary talent in France, though.

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