See also:

The French musical landscape of the 90s sees the established musicians of the 70s and 80s still holding a prominent place. But alongside then, a new musical movement develops: the so-called “Nouvelle chanson”, that is, a return to the melodies and poetry of artists such as Brel, Brassens… This new French song’s artists find a wide audience and bring the chanson française back to its best.

The revival of French music of the 90s is also based on the emergence of a new rock scene. New bands, with influences both French and Anglo-Saxon, fill concert halls and appear at the top of the charts.

The influence of american hip-hop is also evident in France: French hip hop slowly becomes mainstream, so does electronic, dance and house music.

These are some of the most representative songs of the 90s:

69) Niagara – “Pendant Que Les Champs Brûlent” (1990)

French duo Niagara achieved popularity in the 1980s and 1990s, placing several singles in the Top 50 chart; their four studio albums have been gold certified. Evolving from a new wave and synthpop style on their earlier albums to a more rock-oriented style on their later ones, they have been frequently compared to the UK duo Eurythmics. This beautiful song (the title means “While the fields burn”) belongs to their third album, Religion.


 70) Mylène Farmer – “Désenchantée” (1991)

Arguably Europe’s greatest modern pop star, holding a series of impressive records (French artist who sold most records since 1984, record of diamond-certified albums, artist with more singles in the Top 50, among others), Mylène Farmer is the absolute French diva.

Controversial, enigmatic, rarely appearing in the media, refusing to talk about her private life, she is well known for her meaningful songs (often with double entendre, with artistic or literary references) and her spectacular concerts. This is one of her signature songs (the title means “Disappointed”), which she declared had to do with her own feelings at that time, although many  find the song refers to the political situation of France in the 90s.


 71) William Sheller – “Un homme heureux” (1991)

“A happy man” was performed by William Sheller in front of a live audience. The song found success as a single, charting for sixteen weeks on the Top 50 in France and winning the Song of the Year award at the 1992 Victoires de la Musique.


72) Mc Solaar – “Bouge de là” (1991)

Mc Solaar is one of France’s most internationally popular and influential hip hop artists, known for his complex lyrics, which rely on word play, lyricism, and inquiry. The song title means “Get out of here”,  and was one of the first hip hop hits in France. Other famous songs of Mc Solaar are Hasta la vista and La belle et le bad boy, which featured in the last  episode of the series Sex and the city.


73) IAM – “Je danse le Mia” (1993)

Je Danse le Mia was recorded by Marseille rap group IAM. It evokes Marseille nightlife during the 80s; the lyrics are ironic and full of clichés. The song became a major hit in France, and it’s considered the band’s signature song. It uses a sample from “Give me the night” by George Benson.


74) Les Négresses Vertes  – “Face à la mer” (Massive Attack Remix) (1993)

Les Négresses Vertes is one of the most representative bands of French alternative rock. Their style was quite unique though, as they incorporated elements of world and electronic music in their songs. Energetic and exotic, their work was widely acclaimed by critics and the general public. Their recognition and commercial success led to several international collaborations; this is a remix of their song Face à la mer by Massive Attack.


75) Alain Souchon – “Foule sentimentale” (1993)

Multi-awarded Alain Souchon denounces in this powerful song (the title means “Sentimental flock”) the emptiness of our consumer society: “we are inflicted desires that afflict us” and “they make us believe / that happiness is having / our cabinets full of things…”

This song is undoubtedly his greatest success, which received a Victoires de la musique award for the song of the year 1994, and a “Victoires des Victoires” award for the best original song of the last twenty years in 2005.


76) Lara Fabian – “Je suis malade” (1994)

Belgian-Canadian singer, Lara Fabian is the best-selling Belgian female artist of all time, but also well-known internationally. This beautifully sad, timeless song (the title means “I am sick”) belongs to Serge Lama, and had also been performed by Dalida, but this version by Lara Fabian is just marvellous.


77) Pascal Obispo – “Lucie” (1996)

Pascal Obispo has been one of French music central figures since the early 90s, being well-known not only for his talent, but also for his continuous charity work and his unconventional personality. In this song he addresses subjects such as childhood, time passing, life and tells us that we must strive to live from day to day, without asking too many questions.


78) Khaled – “Aïcha” (1996)

This song was written by Jean-Jacques Goldman, but he never released it, being originally performed by Algerian, France-based, raï artist Khaled. The title refers to an Arabic female name. In the song she is being wooed by a man, who promises her luxury, but she wants “anything but love”. It was a huge success, becoming one of France’s best selling singles of the decade.


79) Patrick Fiori, Daniel Lavoie & Garou – “Belle” (1997)

This song belongs to the musical Notre Dame de Paris. It was a massive hit in France, becoming the best-selling single of the decade (managing to surpass even the super hit worldwide “Candle in the wind”), and the third  best-selling single of all time.


80) Larusso – “Tu m’oublieras” (1998)

The song title means “You will forget me”, and indeed many people may have forgotten Larusso. At that time though, it was a huge success, reaching the top ten best selling singles of the 90s. So uplifting, still nowadays!


Don’t miss:

YouTube playlist here



best-french-songs-80s-modSee also:

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 LéonardThe 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 HallydayComme 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.


Don’t miss:

YouTube playlist here



best-french-songs-70s-mod-resizedSee also:

The Hippie wave, which had become particularly powerful after May ’68, affected not only fashion and cinema, but also music. Moreover, Anglo-Saxon music started to exert an increasing influence on France’s culture: rock, disco, and punk would gradually show up.

The music stage of the seventies saw the rising stars of the 60s become consecrated as “vedettes”, but also the advent of new talents with different musical styles: some of them inspired by English music, others who adopted a folk style, as wells as many new artists who modernized the traditional chanson Française. A new trend would found many followers in this period: the duet.

Although the 70s are considered by many the beginning of France’s decline as a culture trend-setter, numerous beautiful songs have emerged during that decade. I actually had a hard time to choose some among the many memorable songs… These are my top picks:

34) Léo Ferré – “Avec le temps” (1970)

Somewhat controversial Léo Ferré wrote, composed and sang this beautifully sad love song, inspired by his own love disenchantment. It became an instant classic and one of the most covered French songs worldwide.


 35Barbara –  “L’ aigle noir” (1970)

Singer-songwriter Barbara was known for her meaningful poetry, the beautiful melodies and her voice’s deep emotion. This dark song (means “The black eagle”) is believed to refer to sexual abuse she experienced as a child.


 36) Jean-François Michael – “Je pense à toi” (1971)

This so romantic song (in English “I think about you”) is an adaptation of Italian “E penso a te” by Lucio Battisti. It has been sung in many languages.


37) Michel Delpech – “Que Marianne était jolie” (1972)

The title of this song means “Marianne was so beautiful”. Marianne is actually an allegorical name for the French Republic, sang by one the greatest representatives of popular chanson Française, Michel Delpech. It has been recently sung by Renaud (January 2016) in memory of the victims of Charlie Hebdo attack.


38) Maxime Le Forestier – “San Francisco” (1972)

Known for his folksy style, Maxime Le Forestier became influential for a whole baba cool generation. After living in a hippie community, in a blue house in San Francisco, he was inspired to create one of his best known hits: “San Francisco”. The  song starts with the line: “It’s a blue house leaning against the hill”. Due to the success of this song, in recent years, the owners of the famous house agreed to repaint it blue (after years of it being painted in green).


39) Michel Fugain – “Une belle histoire” (1972)

After its release in 1972,“Une belle histoire” (A beautiful story) became immediately a huge success, and managed to remain as an all time classic, being still frequently played in certain French radio stations.


40) Vicky Leandros – “Après toi” (1972)

This song (the title means “After you”) was the winning song of the Eurovision Song Contest 1972 performed by Greek singer Vicky Leandros, who was representing Luxembourg. If you follow the Eurovision contest, it’s really worth to see this video: the differences with the present time are quite remarkable…


41) Dalida & Alain Delon – “Paroles, paroles” (1973)

This song was originally performed by Italians Mina and Alberto Lupo, but this version, sung by the timeless diva Dalida together with actor – sex-symbol Alain Delon surpassed it in success, becoming a huge hit not only in France, but also in other countries.


42) Michel Sardou – “La Maladie d’amour” (1973)

Inherently romantic but also with strong social and political convictions, Michel Sardou is considered one of the most popular artists in the Francophone world. “The disease of love” is often cited as one of Sardou’s most successful songs and an essential piece of France’s music heritage. This and several other Sardou’s songs have been included in the beautiful comedy film La famille Bélier.


43) Nino Ferrer – “Le Sud” (1974)

Although famous for his funny songs such as “Le téléfon”, “Les cornichons”, Nino Ferrer changes over time to a more complex and serious style. The result: two of his greatest hits “La maison près de la fontaine” and  this beautiful song. Le Sud (French for “The South”) refers to the country where Ferrer spent his childhood, New Caledonia.


44) Nana Mouskouri – “Que je sois un ange” (1974)

Nana Mouskouri is considered to be one of the best-selling music artists in the world: she has released -so far- over 200 albums in 10 different languages! Of her many beautiful songs, this is my favourite; it has been recently sampled by Nym.


45) Joe Dessin – “L’été indien” (1975)

Already famous during the 60s, this prolific artist would become established and well-known worldwide during the 70s. “L’Été indien” (French for “Indian summer”) is Dassin’s biggest hit, but he sang many other great songs: “Et si tu n’existais pas”, “À toi”, among others.


46) Jeane Mason  – “Avant de nous dire adieu” (1976)

This was one of American (former Paymate) Jeane Mason’s first and biggest hits. The title means “Before we say goodbye”.


47) Gérard Lenorman – “Michèle” (1976)

Very popular in France and Francophonie during the 1970s and early 1980s, this is one of Lenorman’s best known and beautiful songs, together with “Voici les clés“.


48) Plastic Bertrand  – “Ca plane pour moi”(1977)

Punk-rock Belgian singer Plastic Bertrand recorded this song, which became one of the hits of the 70s. Although covered several times, the original is still the most successful. “Ça plane pour moi” is a French idiomatic expression which translates as “everything’s going well for me”; you may have lately heard it in a commercial of a well-known whisky brand.


49) Marie Myriam – “L’oiseau et l’enfant” (1977)

“The Bird and the Child” was the winning song in the Eurovision Song Contest 1977 performed by Marie Myriam; this was the last time a French song won the contest. In 2015, Kids United (a six-children French musical group created to support UNICEF) released a very successful cover of this song.


50) Michel Polnareff – “Lettre à France” (1977)

Provocateur and eccentric, with his signature black glasses and fancy trousers, Polnareff is still to date critically acclaimed during his occasional tours. He wrote nostalgic “Lettre à France”  (Letter to France) when he was exiled in the USA due to fiscal and financial problems.


51) Michel Berger et Luc Plamondon – “Le blues du businessman” (1978)

This is one of the songs of rock opera Starmania, which would become a huge success in French-speaking countries; an English version was later created. The song tells about a businessman who, although professionally successful, realizes that he would have preferred to become an artist.


52) Julien Clerc – “Ma préférence” (1978)

Talented singer, songwriter and pianist, Clerc is still a highly respected French artist, with active humanitarian work. From his vast repertoire this is his most beautiful songs, in which he asks his partner to be forgiven for his infidelities and come back to him.


53) Claude Nougaro – “Tu verras” (1978)

The title means “You will see”; it is an adaptation of Brazilian Chico Buarque’s  O Que Será? Due to its immediate success, Claude Nougaro wins in 1978 the French Record Academy Award.


54) Francis Cabrel – “Je l’aime a mourir” (1979)

Je l’aime à mourir” (English: I love her to death) was a hit single for Francis Cabrel not only in France, but also in Canada, Europe and other countries (he also recorded it in Spanish). It has been covered many times and in many languages, one of the latest is that by Shakira.

Don’t miss:

YouTube playlist here



best-french-songs-60s-bb-modSee also 

With France’s postwar reconstruction finally over, a renewed sense of optimism and energy started to exude from young people in the 60s. Fashion, cinema and music reflected this state of mind: Nouvelle vague cinema and pret-à-porter are emblematic of this period, although after the 1968 events, young people would be largely influenced by the hippy culture (known as baba cool in French). French music is marked by the emergence of yé-yé, (from the English “yeah yeah”), which became a global phenomenon and gave the world some of the best all-time songs.

These are some of the most memorable songs of the sixties:

16) Gilbert Bécaud – “Et maintenant” (1961)

Also known as “Monsieur 100,000 Volts” for his energetic performances, Bécaud remained a popular artist for nearly fifty years. “Et maintenant” is about a love deception: in the song, despair and commotion go in crescendo (so does the music) ending with a last tragic verse: “I really have nothing left”. It was a huge success; a 1961 release by Bécaud himself in English known as “What Now My Love” became an instant hit in the UK and USA.


 17) Françoise Hardy – “Tous les garçons et les filles” (1962)

This song (means “All the Boys and Girls”) is about the feelings of a young woman who hasn’t found love, and her envy of the couples that surround her. It quickly became a success; Hardy also recorded it in English, Italian and German. It has been covered many times and featured in several films.


 18Georges Brassens – “Les copains d’abord” (1964)

This prolific singer/ songwriter/ poet, who wrote and sang more than 100 poems and recorded 14 albums, is known for his anarchist ideas and his black-humored texts. Les copains d’abord, an anthem to friendship, has become one of his most famous songs. It was initially written for the film Les Copains.


19) Enrico Macias – “L’amour c’est pour rien” (1964)

Algeria-born Macias was forced to leave his country during Algerian War of Independence, going into exile in France. He has not been permitted to return to Algeria ever since, hence his nostalgic, oriental-influenced songs: “Adieu mon pays” (Goodbye my country), L’oriental(The Oriental), among others. “L’amour c’est pour rien” (Love is for free) is a more romantic, light song.


20) Alain Barrière – “Ma vie” (1964)

After getting known from his participating in 1963’s Eurovision Song Contest, Barrière released his first album, Ma vie (My life), from which the title-track became a huge hit.


21) Charles Aznavour – “La Bohème” (1965)

With his unique voice, Aznavour is one of France’s longest standing stars, usually compared to Frank Sinatra; he has recorded over 1200 songs in 8 languages. “La Bohème” is Aznavour’s signature song, it’s about a painter who recalls his young years in bohemian Montmartre.


22) Christophe – “Aline” (1965)

This romantic ballad describes, in a poetic way, the feelings of a man whose love, Aline, is gone. It was an instant hit in several countries and is Christophe’s most famous song, followed by -so romantic- Oh mon amour.


23) Sylvie Vartan – “La plus belle pour aller danser” (1965)

Sylvie Vartan is considered one of the most productive and famous yé-yé artists. This song (means “The most beautiful for dancing”) is one of her most successful hits, not only in France, but also in other countries such as Japan.


24) Adamo – “La nuit” (1965)

Belgian artist Salvatore Adamo (also known as Adamo) was one of the 60’s most famous artists; in fact, he is the best selling Belgian musician of all times and is regarded as one of the most commercially successful musicians in the world.  La Nuit” (The night) is one of his definitive songs together with “Tombe la neige” and “Inch’Allah“.


25) Hervé Villard –Capri c’est fini” (1965)

This song (means “Capri it’s over”) talks about the break-up of a relationship that had started in Italian island of Capri, a very popular summer destination during the 60s. The song became a huge French and international hit in the summer of 1965 along with Christophe’s hit song Aline.


26) Mireille Mathieu – “La dernière valse” (1967)

Mireille Mathieu was one of the most recognizable French singers in the 60s -and she still is!  She has recorded over 1200 songs in 11 languages, with more than 150 million albums sold worldwide. This song is the French version of  The Last Waltz, and became a hit not only in France, but also in the UK, where Mathieu was invited to sing at the Royal Performance for the Queen Élisabeth II.


27) Jacques Dutronc – “Les cactus” (1967)

Dutronc is one of the most popular performers in the French-speaking world, although little known in English-speaking countries. He’s among the artists who started as opposition to the lightness of “yéyés”, representative of a genre that would be lately known as garage rock.

Don’t get fooled by the seemingly meaningless lyrics of this song (“The whole world is a cactus, it’s impossible to sit down”), Dutronc sharply criticizes conventionalism, bourgeoisie and “the selfishness and individualism arising from capitalism”.


28) Claude François – “Comme d’habitude” (1968)

After its release in 1968, this song became increasingly famous, being played constantly in radio and TV. While in Paris, Paul Anka happens to hear this song, he buys it and writes English lyrics. And just like that, an all-time classic was born: Frank Sinatra’s “My Way“.


29) Joe Dassin – “Les Champs Élysées” (1969)

This is one of Dassin’s first hits, who would become extremely popular during the 70s. Curiously, this so Parisian piece is an adaptation from an English song.  It has been lately covered by Zaz.


30) Georges Moustaki – “Le Métèque” (1969)

Egyptian-French (of Italo-Greek origin) Moustaki became known for the poetic, simple and romantic songs he composed and often sang. During his forty-year long career he gave France some of its best-loved music by writing about 300 songs for some of the most popular singers. This autobiographic song was a massive success: Métèque is a pejorative word that was commonly used to call immigrants of Mediterranean origin.


31) Zanini – “Tu veux ou tu veux pas” (1969)

With his signature little mustache, bucket hat and glasses, Zanini would become well-known after his huge hit “Tu veux ou tu veux pas” (You want to or you don’t), which is actually an adaptation of Brazilian Wilson Simonal’s “Nem vem que não tem”.


32) Johnny Hallyday – “Que je t’aime” (1969)

This is “French Elvis” Johnny Hallyday’s most iconic song, which remains to date one of France’s favorite songs. It was such a success that frenzied fans would often go crazy, shout and faint; Hallyday was forced many times to be “rescued” by a police car to escape the enthusiasm of his fans.


33) Serge Gainsbourg & Jane Birkin – “Je t’aime moi non plus” (1969)

In English the song title means “I love you – me not anymore” and is about two lovers’ impossibility of physical love. It became an instant hit in many countries, but due to its explicit sexual content it was banned in many others.

Gainsbourg came up with this song when Brigitte Bardot asked him to write “the most beautiful love song he could imagine”. And he did it: to me, this is one of the most erotic songs ever recorded.

See also:

YouTube playlist here