French music often makes us think of singers like Edith Piaf and Johnny Hallyday but one of the best musical innovations to come out of the country is French touch music. This genre from the 1990s helped skyrocket France to the international music scene, but what exactly is it? Learn more about what it is, how it began and have a listen to our top five songs in the genre. You’ll then be able to show off your French musical knowledge at your next party – It’s time to dance the night away!
- 1. “One More Time” by Daft Punk
- 2. “Music Sounds Better With You” by Stardust
- 3. “Oxygène” by Jean-Michel Jarre
- 4. “Sentimental Mood” by St Germain
- 5. “Ezio” by Motorbass
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What is French touch music?
Let’s start with the definition of house music:
“House is a genre characterized by a repetitive four-on-the-floor beat and a typical tempo of 120 beats per minute”
French touch music was a form of house music that came to light in the 1990s. Many French musicians at the time decided to add a “French twist” to house music and it became really popular in the European dance music scene in the 90s and early 2000s. A man named Eric Morand founded an electronic music label in collaboration with the French DJ Laurent Garnier, and together they came up with the slogan: “We give a French touch to house music”. It quickly became an important part of the French touch music movement.
French touch music has various defining features, such as layered harmonic structures, repetitive loops and the use of audio filters. But don’t worry if this all sounds a little confusing – below you can read about (and listen to!) our top five French touch music songs.
1. “One More Time” by Daft Punk
We can’t talk about French touch without mentioning the most famous artist of all time in this genre… Daft Punk! This French band is the epitome of French touch music, although it was considered the “second generation” of this style, i.e. new French touch music. In 2001, Daft Punk released the song “One More Time”. It’s a great example of this music because the phrase “one more time” is repeated throughout the song, there are various audio filters used and it features a mechanical but infectious beat.
2. “Music Sounds Better With You” by Stardust
Stardust was a French trio that released only one song: “Music Sounds Better With You”. This 1998 track was, and still is, one of the best French touch music examples out there. The bassline is actually a sample taken from the song “Fate” by Chaka Khan. The song is filled with audio filters and has a relentless beat.
Fun fact: French touch band Daft Punk remixed this song with its own song “One More Time” during its 2006/2007 tour.
3. “Oxygène” by Jean-Michel Jarre
While French touch music is associated with the 1990s, its origins go way back to the 1970s and the era of Frenchman Jean-Michel Jarre. He has been named one of the premier héros de la French touch (first hero of French touch). In 1976, he released an entire album, Oxygène. Given that French touch music was not yet a style in the 1970s, it was not particularly popular on release. Despite this, it is now considered one of the budding examples of French touch music and a great example of electronic music in general.
4. “Sentimental Mood” by St Germain
Jumping back to the 1990s, we have “Sentimental Mood” by French musician St Germain (real name Ludovic Navarre). He kicked off his music career in 1995 with his album Sur un boulevard, which included this song. Unlike the previous song, this piece was an immediate hit. It cleverly mixes different styles of music, such as reggae and jazz, and layers it over a catchy, repetitive beat. Plus, he incorporates an incredible sax solo over the 10-minute track!
5. “Ezio” by Motorbass
Motorbass was a duo made up of Philippe Zdar and Étienne de Crécy. This song was released in 1996 as part of the band’s album “Pansoul”. The repetitive beat is evident but what makes the piece stand out is the use of a harp. It’s very innovative to use such an unexpected instrument, layered over audio filters and infectious beats.
French touch music was a fantastic addition to the international musical scene of the 1990s and it helped make several French artists stars. Even today, you will still hear some of the classics played in clubs, bars and festivals around the world, including the famous Fête de la musique (World Music Day) held in France every year.
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Clara Avrillier is a writer, linguist and content manager living in the South of France. She loves getting out in nature, doing sport, reading and playing music. She also works with expats looking to move to France. Connect with her on LinkedIn.