Give la bonne musique a chance
If you’ve been trying to find a way to sit down and relax with some bonne musique, look no further. Here’s a list of some of my all-time favourite French musicians, in no particular order.
Coeur de pirate
There’s no way this list would be complete without Coeur de pirate, in my opinion. Originally from Quebec, Coeur de pirate—also known as Béatrice Martin—releases music mainly in French and occasionally in English.
The first song I ever heard from her was “Comme des enfants” way back in Grade 8 and it’s been one of my favourites for years. I recently re-fell in love with Coeur de pirate over the summer, after I bought Blonde, her second album. Her lyrics are what get me, paired with the music—sometimes upbeat, sometimes just downright sad.
Still not convinced? Just listen to the YouTube video of her Wood & Wires session. Pure magic.
Must-listen songs: Place de la République, Golden Baby, Adieu, Crier tout bas.
FAUVE, sometimes represented by the symbol ≠, is a French collective of musicians and artists. They do a mix of spoken word, accompanied by rhythmic background music. If you want a quick intro to FAUVE, listen to their 2014 EP BLIZZARD. It’s six songs of what they deemed to be their best productions at the time.
FAUVE tends to speak fast (at least for me) but not so fast that you can’t understand what’s being said. Because they’re not really ‘singing,’ I find there’s a bit more emotion in the way the lines are performed, which helps to draw you into the song.
Must-listen songs: Blizzard, Cock Music Smart Music/Rag #1, Rub a dub, Vieux frères.
Stromae is a Belgian-Rwandan singer/rapper whose stage name switches the order of the syllables in “maestro.” I’ll admit I haven’t listened to all his songs, but the ones that I have heard, I’ve replayed a good amount of times.
My all-time favourite song from him is “Papaoutai,” which I listened to obsessively before the lyrics fully registered in my mind. The song is a play on the question “Où t’es Papa?” which means “Dad, where are you?” Stromae tends to do similar plays on words in some of his other songs, such as “Quand c’est?” which sounds phonetically similar to “cancer” in French. I love that kind of stuff, so it’s one of the things I like most about him. Plus his songs are the best of both worlds— solid lyrics paired with good beats that make you want to dance.
If you’re into well-shot music videos, Stromae is a must watch. His video for “Tous Les Mêmes” is one of the best I’ve ever seen. There’s no way to really describe it, but Stomae plays both the male and female characters in the video— at the same time. Definitely worth a watch.
Must-listen songs: Formidable, Alors on Danse, Papaoutai, Tous Les Mêmes
This is another one of those bands where I haven’t heard all their songs, but the ones I’ve heard are amongst my favourites. I was first introduced to them years ago when Apple had one of their songs as their free download of the week—remember those?
They’re an indie rock band from Montreal that reminds me of Of Monsters and Men mixed with Half Moon Run—except in French. The album artwork for their 2011 album Tantale is also amongst my favourite ever. If you’re into good, solid indie rock, definitely give them a listen.
Must-listen songs: De Toute Façon, Ce soir, L’Araignée, La marge.
To add a bit of folk to this list, I’d highly recommend Quebecois singer-songwriter Bernard Adamus.
I first heard him in a second-year French class, when my professor played one of his songs. I don’t remember much from the class, but I do remember that I really liked his sound.
Fair warning: if you’re not a fan of the Quebecois way of speaking French, you might want to give him a miss. However, if you’re into folksy, acoustic songs with a good rhythm, give him a listen.
Must-listen songs: 2176, Brun (la couleur de l’amour), Ouais ben, Donne-moi-z’en.