- 100 Essential French songs you must hear – Part 1: The 1930s, 40s & 50s
- 100 Essential French songs you must hear – Part 2: The 1960s
- 100 Essential French songs you must hear – Part 3: The 1970s
- 100 Essential French songs you must hear – Part 5: The 1990s
- 100 Essential French songs you must hear – Part 6: The 2000s
- 100 Essential French songs you must hear – Part 7: 2000-2016
Big hair, shoulder pads, easy listening rhythms and lots of synth: when we think about the 80s music, this is what it comes to our minds… France was not an exception to this trend: the musical stage of the 80s was dominated by pop music (called Variété in French). Nevertheless, some great rock bands made their appearance; musical styles such as punk, new wave and dance were also represented.
Check out this list with the boldest songs of the 80s:
55) Herbert Léonard, “Pour le plaisir” (1981)
“Pour le plaisir” (English “For the pleasure”) was performed by variété singer Herbert Léonard. The album quickly reaches the number 1 in the charts, selling 2 million records.
56) Jean-Jacques Goldman – “Comme Toi” (1983)
Grammy Award-winning Goldman is a hugely popular singer in the French-speaking world, and since 2003 he has been the second highest-grossing French living pop-rock singer, after Johnny Hallyday. Comme toi (“Like you”) is about Sarah, a jewish girl victim of the Holocaust (he is Jewish origin).
57) Les Rita Mitsouko – “Marcia Baila” (1984)
With their unique blend of punk, new wave, dance and cabaret, Les Rita Mitsouko are considered one of the most representative bands of the 80s. The title song is in Spanish (“Marcia dance”) as is dedicated to Argentinian dancer Marcia Moretto, who was part of the band’s tours before her death from breast cancer at age 32. The song was a huge hit, remaining on the Top 50 chart for 29 weeks.
58) Étienne Daho – “Week-end à Rome” (1984)
Étienne Daho has released a number of synth-pop hits since the 80s; all his albums have been certified at least gold or platinum. Famous in French-speaking countries, Daho is best known in Britain for his appearance on Saint Etienne hit single “He’s on the Phone“, an English-adaptation of “Weekend à Rome”. Nouvelle Vague recorded a beautiful cover of this song together with Vanessa Paradis.
59) Renaud – “Mistral gagnant” (1985)
Singer and songwriter, with a unique ‘broken’ voice, Renaud is the author of several popular classic songs, although his work is almost unknown outside the French-speaking world. In this sentimental song, Renaud tells his daughter about his childhood, how time flies and that she will eventually grow up: “time is a murderer, that takes away children’s laughter, and the Mistral gagnants” (Mistral gagnant was a candy sold in the 50’s and 60’s).
60) Daniel Balavoine – “L’Aziza” (1985)
With his powerful voice and meaningful lyrics, Daniel Balavoine remains one of the greatest artists of the 80s, selling over 20 million records until his tragic death in 1986. “L’Aziza” means ‘My dear’ in Arabic; it is the singer’s tribute to his Jewish Moroccan wife, and a statement against racism. In France, the song was very successful, topping the charts for two months and becoming a classic song throughout the years.
61) Laurent Voulzy – “Belle-Île-En-Mer, Marie-Galante” (1985)
Already world-known by his 1977 hit Rockollection, Voulzy records this beautiful song, which takes its name from two islands, Belle-Île-en-Mer in Bretagne (that he loved) and Marie-Galante in Guadeloupe (his parents’ homeland). Although the song is about his own life, on a second reading it also talks about isolation and loneliness (and possibly discrimination). It’s one of Voulzy’s greatest hits and has been elected “the best song of the 80s” and “the 14th best song of the 20th century” by Victoires de la musique.
62) Desireless – “Voyage Voyage” (1986)
Arguably one of the 80’s most emblematic songs, and certainly the decade’s biggest French hit worldwide. Despite being sung entirely in French, it managed to circumvent the language barrier and became a huge international hit between 1986 and 1988.
63) France Gall – “Ella, elle l’a” (1987)
France Gall was a popular French yé-yé singer from the 60s, but this is -in my opinion- her most beautiful song. “Ella, elle l’a” (French for “Ella, she has it”) is a tribute to Ella Fitzgerald. The song achieved great success in many European countries; in France it remained on the Top 50 chart for 19 weeks and nine weeks in the Top 10.
64) Florent Pagny – “N’importe quoi” (1987)
This is Florent Pagny debut song, which became a big hit in France, topping the chart for two months and remaining his second best-selling single. In this protest song, he talks to a friend addicted to drugs and alcohol.
65) François Feldman – “Le mal de toi” (1987)
A well-established star in France, François Feldman has sung several classic French songs, selling over 10 million albums during his still ongoing 25-year career. This song is from his first album, Vivre, vivre.
66) Vanesa Paradis – “Joe le taxi” (1987)
“Joe the Taxi Driver” was the first hit of singer/ songwriter/ musician/ actress/ model/ ex- Johnny Depp wife Vanessa Paradis. She was 14 years old when she recorded this song, which went on to top the singles chart in France for 11 weeks and, uncommonly for a French-language song at that time, was also a hit in the United Kingdom.
67) Patricia Kaas – “Mon mec à moi” (1988)
This is to date Patricia Kaas biggest hit. In the song, which translates “My boy (says) to me”, a woman talks about her love life with her boyfriend, who tells her many lies, but she believes them. It has become a real popular success throughout the years.
68) Patrick Bruel – “J’te l’dit quand même” (1989)
A huge personality in France, adored by his fans – what the media called “Bruelmania”, Patrick Bruel is also a talented actor: he has performed in many films, including “Le Prénom” (What’s in a name?). This romantic song (the title means “I’m still telling you”) belongs to his album Casser la voix.
YouTube playlist here
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