Yes, you can learn French with music!
Nooooonnnnn, rien de rieeeeen…
Nooooooooon, je ne regrette rien…
If you can hear Édith Piaf’s voice echoing inside your brain right now, it’s official – you know at least one or two things about French music.
But much has changed since Piaf’s incredible rise to fame as France’s national voice, and there is so much to discover about music in French! Take a leap as we show you more of what is out there.
What makes music in French so special?
300 million people speak French around the world. It is the official or co-official language in 29 countries as culturally different as France, Switzerland, Belgium, Congo, Canada, Madagascar and Senegal, with some saying Africa will be the future of the French language. Because of this incredible cultural diversity and several diasporas, music in French is a colourful celebration of rhythms, influences and backgrounds! Whether you like to party hard or prefer a soothing jazzy tune, music in French presents a rainbow of options.
12 Songs in French You’ll Want to Play on Repeat!
Stromae – “Tous Les Mêmes”
Literally: “All the same”
Stromae is a Belgian musician who just keeps on giving. Each and every one of his videos is artistic, creative, ironic and even touching, as he often sings about relationship problems, societal issues and the most negative human emotions – all while keeping it danceable. His massive success with “Alors on danse”, “Papaoutai”, “Carmen” and “Ta fête” proves that – not every artist can say they sold 8.5 million records worldwide while singing in French and sticking to such innovative video concepts. But “Tous les mêmes” has to be one of his best – here, Stromae himself dresses up as a man and a woman to ironically play with gender roles, typical complaints couples have and the claim that “They are all the same”.
Fragment: “Vous les hommes, vous êtes tous les mêmes / Macho mais cheap, bande de mauviettes infidèles / Si prévisibles, non je ne suis pas certaine / Que tu m’mérites, vous avez d’la chance qu’on vous aime / Dis-moi merci”
Translation: “You men, you’re all the same / Macho but cheap, a bunch of unfaithful wimps / So predictable, but I’m not certain / If you deserve me, you’re lucky we love you / Thank me”
Maître Gims – “Est-ce que tu m’aimes?”
Literally: “Do you love me?”
One of the life experiences we are most likely to have as humans is being ready to sacrifice everything for an ideal and ending up disappointed. Maître Gims, a French-Congolese singer who is famous for his African-inspired beats and his powerful vocals, talks about this unpleasant feeling of despair and disappointment at a loved one in “Est-ce que tu m’aimes”. If you aren’t familiar with Gims, know that he is a groundbreaker in the French-speaking world and opened the path for many other Congolese artists to get some visibility! Don’t forget to check his other hits, “J’me tire”, “Sapés comme jamais” and “Loin”.
Fragment: “J’étais prêt à graver ton image à l’encre noire sous mes paupières / Afin de te voir même dans un sommeil éternel / Même dans un sommeil éternel / J’étais censé t’aimer mais j’ai vu l’averse / J’ai cligné des yeux tu n’étais plus la même
Est-ce que je t’aime? / J’sais pas si je t’aime”
Translation: “I was ready to burn your image in black ink under my eyelids /
So that I could see you even in eternal sleep / Even in eternal sleep / I was supposed to love you but I saw the rain showers / I closed my eyes, you were no longer the same / Do I love you? / I don’t know if I love you”
Zoufris Maracas – “Pacifique”
Zoufris Maracas, a French group of musicians who started playing in metro stations in Paris, have chosen to pay homage to the Algerian workers who were immigrants in France during the second half of the 20th century. They include both visual and musical references to North African culture and Latin America, and their lyrics typically talk of societal problems, unpleasant feelings, nostalgia and feeling out of place. While Zoufris Maracas’ biggest song to date has been “Et ta mère”, “Pacifique” tells us the curious story of a man of complex backgrounds and an isolated island. It’s almost like listening to a bedtime story!
Fragment: “L’a étudié 10 ans l’université / L’a étudié comment on manage les gens / L’a étudié comment marche la planche à billets / L’a fait un petit coup d’Etat, monter son p’tit gouvernement / Y’a qu’à danser / La mer nous donne du poisson / Y’a qu’à danser / Les femmes nous donnent des enfants / Y’a qu’à danser / La canne à sucre nous fait le rhum / Y’a qu’à danser / Et regarder passer le temps”
Translation: “Studied 10 years university / Studied how people are managed / Studied how the billboard works / He made a small coup, set up his little government / One must dance / The sea gives us fish / One must dance / Women give us children / One must dance / Cane sugar makes us rum / One must dance / And watch the time pass”
Willy William – “Ego”
Literally: You’ve guessed it: “Ego”!
If you’ve been partying anywhere lately, you’ve probably danced to the song “Mi Gente”. But Willy William had been getting parties started long before that! Born to Mauritian immigrants, the French DJ and producer knows what’s catchy and how to make us dance to African-inspired rhythms without being lazy with his content. Case in point? “Ego”. Was there ever a more appropriate time to talk about a self-centered mind, being overly obsessed with beauty, living inside a cozy bubble and wanting to be told we’re the best?
Fragment: “Miroir, dis-moi qui est le plus beau / Quitte à devenir mégalo / Viens donc chatouiller mon ego / Allez allez allez / Laisse-moi entrer dans ta matrice / Goûter à tes délices / Personne en peut m’en dissuader / Allez allez allez / Je ferai tout pour t’accompagner”
Translation: “Mirror, tell me who’s the fairest of them all / Even if I become a megalomaniac / Come and tickle my ego / Let’s go, let’s go, let’s go / Let me enter your matrix / Taste your delights / No one can dissuade me from it / Let’s go, let’s go, let’s go / I’ll do anything to accompany you”
We understand you need a sassy, stylish song if you’re going to walk down the Champs-Élysées without a care in the world. That’s why “Mojo” is for everybody. -M-, or Matthieu Chedid, is a French rockstar who has won 13 Victoires de la Musique awards, delivered by the French Ministry of Culture itself. But this character is not meant to be his true self! -M- is a flamboyant superhero who wears daring costumes, daring hairstyles and walks the streets of France playfully. Your new best friend?
Fragment: “Pourquoi toutes ces caresses inégales / Quand elles ressentent mes ondes animales / Est-ce que c’est bien? / Est-ce que c’est mal? / Laisse-toi aller, c’est qu’ça c’est le Mojo / Cette nuit risque d’être fatale / Belle à craquer, elle est cannibale / Est-ce qu’il est vrai? / Est-ce qu’il est faux? / Oh oui laisse-toi aller, c’est qu’ça c’est le Mojo
Translation: “Why all of these uneven caresses / When they can feel my animal waves? / Is it good? / Is it bad? / Let yourself go, since this is the Mojo / Tonight has a risk of being fatal / Beautiful to crack, she’s a cannibal / Is it true? / Is it false? / Oh yeah, let yourself go, since this is the Mojo”
Black M – “Sur Ma Route”
Literally: “On My Way”
Black M, or Alpha Diallo, was born and raised in Paris by his Guinean parents. In “Sur ma route”, he reflects on his past and the type of trouble he had to go through to get to where he is today. Isn’t it something we all do once in a while? Perhaps the best part of the song is how cheerful, motivating and uplifting it is. Whenever you need a little push to get through the day, make sure to check this song!
Fragment: “Sur ma route, oui / Il y a eu du move, oui / De l’aventure dans l’movie / Une vie de roots / Sur ma route, oui / Je n’compte plus les soucis / De quoi devenir fou, oui / Une vie de roots”
Translation: “On my way, yes / There was some movement, yes / Adventures like in the movies / A life of roots / On my way, yes / I no longer count my worries / What’s to go mad about, yes / A life of roots”
Noir Désir – “L’Homme Pressé”
Literally: “The hurried man”
The image of the urban man who manipulates the media, is obsessed with fortune and career, stays indifferent to others and is constantly running from one place to another is the subject of “L’homme pressé”. It isn’t surprising. Noir Désir (literally “dark desire”) were an alternative rock band from Bordeaux who were mostly active during the 80s, 90s and 2000s, and created songs of strong political nature. The band isn’t active anymore, but you can still enjoy this musical portrait of urban paranoia!
Fragment: “Il n’y a plus de secret, je suis le roi des rois / Explosé l’audimat, pulvérisée l’audience / Et qu’est ce que vous croyez? / C’est ma voie, c’est ma chance / J’adore les émissions à la télévision / Pas le temps de regarder mais c’est moi qui les fais (…) / Qui veut de moi et des miettes de mon cerveau? / Qui veut entrer dans la toile de mon réseau?”
Translation: “There are no secrets anymore, I am the king of kings / Explode the ratings, pulverized the audience / And what do you believe? / It’s my way, it’s my chance / I love the programs on the television / I have no time to see them, but I’m the one who makes them (…) / Who wants anything to do with me and the crumbs of my brain? / Who wants to enter the web of my network? / You know that I am a hurried man”
Therapie TAXI feat. Roméo Elvis – “Hit Sale”
Literally: “Dirty hit”
Alternative French group Therapie TAXI defies all boundaries and labels: pop, rock, indie? Call it what you will, but their songs are likely to play at your underground party. They have quite an ironic, even controversial take on society and what is expected of musicians. In this song, they partner up with Belgian hip hop artist Roméo Elvis to talk about an attractive woman who is irresistible and keeps dancing to the dirty hits on the radio…causing chaos!
Fragment: “Il y a les phrases que tu dis, les phrases de mec facile / Les phrases que j’oublie, bourrée dans la nuit / Et ton corps qui se tord seulement pour me plaire / Mais tu sais moi je mords tes rêves imaginaires / Y a des bugs dans ma tête / Des rêves imaginaires / Y a des bugs dans ma tête / Quand j’écrase ma cigarette / Ici tout le monde déraille (tout le monde déraille) / T’es cent fois trop, cent fois trop bonne”
Translation: “There are these lines you drop, cheap guy lines / Lines I forget about as I’m drunk in the night / and your body wriggling just to please me / But, you know, I bite your imaginary dreams / There are bugs in my head / Imaginary dreams / There are bugs in my head / When I stub out a cigarette / Everybody derails / You’re a hundred times too much, a hundred times too hot/sexy”
Souf – “Mea Culpa”
Literally: “Mea culpa” is a Latin expression and is commonly used throughout the world in its original form – without translation – to mean “It’s my fault”. Basically, admitting you did something wrong!
“Le temps qui court” is an interesting expression. Literally, it means “The times that run”, as if time is passing by quickly, but at the same time it is commonly used for “These days”. French singer Souf, of Moroccan and Algerian origin, sings about relationships ending and time running by fast…or is it just the way things are these days? A great opportunity to support an artist who has earned his way to the top with online releases and covers, and later signed with Maître Gims (mentioned above).
Fragment: “Elle me dit qu’elle est fatiguée / Elle me dit qu’elle veut tout lâcher / Même pas eu l’temps d’lui expliquer / C’est plus la peine de continuer / Mais c’est le temps qui court / Court, court, court / Mais c’est le temps qui court / Pour tout ce mal j’suis désolé”
Translation: “She tells me she is tired / She tells me that she wants to let go / Not even time to explain / It’s no longer worth going on / But it’s these days (days that run) / Short, short, short / But it’s these days (days that run) / For all of this harm I’m sorry”
Bigflo & Oli – “Dommage”
Have you ever thought of talking to that special person, pursuing an alternative career or having the guts to show up at that party? From Toulouse to your headphones, the French brothers Bigflo & Oli come to tell you what a shame it is that some people never get to follow their dreams. The brothers of Argentine and Algerian descent finish with a dramatic story to make us think twice about our decisions. Here’s to living without regrets! PS: remember those Victoires de la Musique awards that -M- won? Bigflo & Oli were the 2019 winners for the categories of Male Artist and Urban Music.
Fragment: “Yasmine a une belle voix, elle sait qu’elle est douée / Dans la tempête de sa vie, la musique est sa bouée / Face à ses mélodies, le monde est à ses pieds / Mais son père lui répétait: “Trouve-toi un vrai métier” (…) / Ça lui arrive de chanter quand elle travaille à l’usine / Ah elle aurait dû y aller, elle aurait dû le faire, crois-moi / On a tous dit : “Ah c’est dommage, ah c’est dommage, c’est p’t’être la dernière fois”
Translation: “Yasmine has a beautiful voice, she knows that she’s blessed / In the turmoil of her life, music is her lifesaver / Faced with her melodies, the world revolved around her / But her dad kept telling her, “Find a real job” (…) / She sings occasionally while she’s working at the factory / Ah, she should’ve gone, she should’ve done it, believe me / We all said: “Ah it’s such a pity, ah it’s such a pity, it might’ve been the last time”
Kendji Girac – “Tiago”
Literally: Tiago is a male name.
Kendji Girac has a unique background not commonly seen in the media. Despite having been born and raised in France, he is the youngest of a Catalan gitano family and his first language is also Catalan. It isn’t a surprise that he became famous for his gitano-inspired covers of common songs, and then became the winner of the third season of The Voice – coached by Mika (yes, that Mika!). In “Tiago”, he sings about standing by a loved one’s side, recovering childhood memories and promising to stick together to overcome bad moments.
Fragment: “Tiago, j’ai pris le temps de t’écrire / Une mélodie, en mille sourires / Tiago, j’ai mis le temps pour le dire / Mais mon ami, je suis là pour le pire / Qui se moque de toi se moque aussi de moi / Dans 20 ans tu verras / On en rigolera”
Translation: “Tiago, I took the time to write you / A melody, in a thousand smiles / Tiago, I took the time to tell you / But my friend, I am here for the worst / Whoever makes fun of you makes fun of me too / In 20 years you will see / We will be laughing”
Carla Bruni – “Quelqu’un m’a dit”
Literally: “Someone told me”
A supermodel. A songwriter. A human rights advocate. A singer with a heavenly voice. Is there anything Carla Bruni can’t do? After listening to “Quelqu’un m’a dit”, we bet she can do whatever she feels like doing! In this song, the French-Italian musician tells us about how quickly time flies, how love can make fools out of us, how destiny can be cruel…and yet, somebody told her that it is still possible to feel something so beautiful and be someone’s source of beauty. The very best way to finish our playlist today!
Fragment: “On me dit que nos vies ne valent pas grand-chose / Elles passent en un instant comme fanent les roses / On me dit que le temps qui glisse est un salaud / Que de nos chagrins il s’en fait des manteaux / Pourtant quelqu’un m’a dit / Que tu m’aimais encore / C’est quelqu’un qui m’a dit que tu m’aimais encore / Serait-ce possible alors?”
Translation: “I’m told that our lives aren’t worth very much / They pass in an instant like fading roses / I’m told that coats are made from our sorrows / However, someone told me / That you still love me / Someone has told me that you still love me / Could it be possible, then?”
Where can you go from here?
Édith Piaf does not have to be the only star on your playlist from now on! Continue exploring and finding your own personal taste in music in French.The incredible variety of cultures involved in creating a vibrant musical scene in French will have opened your eyes to how lost you can get in the sound! But let’s admit it – after getting such a playlist boost, walking past the Eiffel Tower with your headphones should feel a lot more stylish now!
Now you’ve got some songs to sing along to, how about using your new vocabulary in a Lingoda lesson?
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