Who’s hiding all the great francophone music?
Three years ago I decided that I was going to learn a foreign language and that I was going to put my heart and soul into the challenge. The chosen language was French and it was a decision over which I nearly had sincere regrets.
I hired a personal tutor and spent the first few months rediscovering what a total simpleton I was. My goal was something approaching fluency and I was struggling to figure out if the cat was under the mat or on top of it.
So I decided to replace English with French in every area of my life. As well as changing the default language on such things as my XBox and my Facebook page, I decided to read nothing but French books, watch nothing by French films, listen to nothing but French radio stations,1 and listen to nothing but French music.
Just one small problem.
French music sucks
You’d certainly be forgiven for believing that statement as you make your first Internet searches for francophone groups and find little more than middle aged men groaning into a microphone.
French singers don’t sing. They mumble, they whisper, they talk. With a soft, nauseating voice that seems finely designed to put you ill at ease. It is blood-numbingly horrid. You feel sure that there is great music to be found amongst the pain but it’s hard to listen long enough to find out. For me it’s like fingers down a chalkboard. It makes me feel very unwell.
This is as good an example as any of the thousands I could have found. Listen to how a rather pleasant guitar intro is strangled by the arrival of the “singer”. Another offender, Serge Gainsbourg, is one of the most influential French singers of all time. A random search on YouTube for any of his output brings up this shocker.
It’s just nasty isn’t it?
But they appear to love it in France. Perhaps it’s just me who can’t stand it. Either way, it was imperative that I find some French music where the singers actually sing and where the objective is to entertain rather than to make love to the microphone.
Finding the good stuff
Although I have now regained some sanity, I really did spend the best part of two years listening to nothing but francophone singers. Ask any of the poor souls that travelled in my car or visited my flat during that time.2
There’s a huge body of music to wade through that almost no Englishman has ever heard in his life. And of course, there is great francophone music all over the place, some it it truly superb (take Babylon Circus’s La Belle Étoile, for example.) It’s just that if you want to find it you are faced with three problems.
- Most French music is awful.3
- Most French language music sites are full of anglophone groups.
- You probably can’t buy it in your own country anyway.
Great French Songs
And that’s why I started this blog. I wanted to provide the resource that I didn’t have when I started learning French. And I did it knowing full well that noone was going to read it.
But it’s here.
I’m sure you won’t like all the bands on the site and that your musical tastes will not be the same as mine but I hope there is enough here to point you in the direction of the francophone music you hope to find.
2. There are of course places where one cannot avoid anglophone music. In pubs and clubs for example. Or when watching French TV.
3. To be fair, so is most English music. It’s just that in your country of birth you have been learning from an early age how to blank out the dross.