France has since gifted the world with art, producing the likes of Monet and Renoir, who revolutionized impressionism in the 19th century. But aside from their impeccable taste in art, French people are also known to have quite the influence in music through classical musicians such as Debussy, Satie, and Ravel. With an undeniable pedigree in various art forms, it is without a doubt that French music and artists conquer the world with its aurally pleasing romantic language and a certain joie de vivre that is bound to resonate throughout different genres and decades.
The 21st century has witnessed the growth of French musicians and iconic hit songs that have stood the test of time and transcended their genre. You may recognize some of these artists and their music through karaoke songs and today’s various social media platforms like Facebook and Youtube.
AIR is the French electronic/rock duo of Nicolas Godin and Jean-Benoît Dunckel, who debuted with the album Moon Safari garnered international success in 1998. The band’s name, bearing the initials of “Amour, Imagination, Rêve,” or “love, imagination, dream,” rang true as the band benchmarked French pop music within the ranks of an English-speaking world.
With their sophisticated and downbeat electronic pop music, the band left a lasting impression on thousands of teenagers growing up, making them one of the most influential acts of the 2000s. The band was also able to successfully show their unique take on baroque pop, lounge, electronica, and lounge.
Parisian duo Thomas Bangalter and Guy-Manuel de Homem-Christo formed the band in 1993. The duo brought the French touch style house scene into the charts with hit singles like “Around the World” and “Da Funk.”
Daft Punk pushed boundaries, became one of the most acclaimed pop music acts, and were praised as global superstars through their singles “Harder, Better, Faster, Stronger” and “One More Time.”
Two decades into their career, the band released their fourth and final album, Random Access Memories, which earned several Grammys, including Album of the Year. The album contained arguably the biggest song of their career, “Get Lucky,” featuring Chic’s Nile Rodgers and Pharrell Williams. Daft Punk helped pave the way for the EDM boom that changed pop music in the US in 2010 and left a permanent mark on the global pop landscape.
A quintessential yé-yé singer alongside Sheila, Sylvie Vartan, and France Gall, Hardy rose to fame and conquered French and British pop charts with “It Hurts To Say Goodbye,” Arnold Goland in 1968. Her “Tous les garçons et les filles” sold 2 million copies and became a massive success for the then 19-year old artist.
She sang in English, Spanish, Italian, and German occasionally. One of her notable achievements is the Grand Prix du Disque Académie Charles Cros. And for over fifty years, her presence remains a force to be reckoned with as she finds new, creative, and fresh ways to sing about love with her dreamy, soft, and tastefully seductive voice.
France’s most beloved pop star, Johnny Hallyday, was a pop and rock and roll singer and actor regarded as the Elvis Presley of France. Many credit him for introducing rock and roll to France, his career spanning more than half a century and selling over 110 million records.
The 1957 Presley film “Loving You” inspired 14-year-old Jean-Philippe Smet to pick up a guitar and curl his lips into a sneer which would revolutionize French culture forever.
He released an album in 2008 called “Ça Ne Finira Jamais” (“It Will Never End”), which sounded like a statement of his long-standing career. The album and its title song reached No. 1 on the French charts, adding to his growing list of achievements. The artist passed away in 2017 due to lung cancer, but his legacy lives on.
Perhaps one of the songs considerably associated with France, La Vie En Rose, continues to affect the hearts of 21st-century listeners the way it did to those who had suffered from the war. Edith Piaf wrote the song, which literally means “Life in Pink” but can be translated as “Life in Rosy Hues” or “Life through Rose-coloured glasses.”
Piaf enticed France with her impressive vocals and raw, emotional power. With songs like “Je Ne Regrette Rien,” she gained international recognition and eventually became one of the highest-paid stars in the world.
Regarded as the 3-in-1 French equivalent to David Bowie, Mick Jagger, and John Lennon, Gainsbourg remains a European legend for his charisma, artistic ability, and unique take on music. His early years as a musician began by experimenting with various musical styles – from jazz, English pop, reggae, and even hip-hop.
His song “Je t’aime… moi non plus” brought him tremendous global success, and he even declared it the “ultimate love song.” The song, however, was banned in several countries for being “too scandalous.” Another all-time favorite, the album Histoire de Melody Nelson, changed the narratives of recording. With his unconventionally soft and nearly spoken delivery, the album reached amazing heights and is considered original in every sense of the word.
Ever since these game-changers in the music industry, the world has seen more French artists and musicians under the limelight. You can never go wrong with French music. Try considering these musicians and their masterpieces when making your next playlist.