2020 Holiday playlist - 30 top modern French songs

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best french musicThis playlist of the top 30 French songs is a great way to kick off your holiday in France in summer 2021. Hopefully you will have come across some of the songs, but maybe some of the French singers will be new to you. The playlist features French and Canadian artists such as Christophe Mae, Manu Chu and a fabulous French rock band called BB Brunes.

Sorry, there is no Dance music (Daft Punk or David Guetta), Hip Hop or Metal (mainly because as an old Mod, this music leaves me absolutely cold). I have quite an eclectic taste in music (I think), although my wife sums it up as 'shit music'. I do prefer artists who write their own music and I am a sucker for a distinctive voice. There are some notable absentees on this French music playlist which which will leave any French native absolutely aghast. But I wanted to limit the playlist to around 1 hour. So apologies in advance all French people, but there is no Indochine, Air, Mano Negra (although the lead singer Mano Chao is included), and certainly no Jean Michel Jarre or Johnny Halliday. 

Also, I have to admit that I don't get a lot of French music. A lot of it is heavily lyric based and I think if you are not a native French speaker, the references can pass you buy. In addition, the image of French music as dominated by guys strumming a gutar and singing in a Gaulloise rasping voice is unfortunately not to far wide of the mark. My good friend Xavier has tried in vein to convert me, but I think he has finally admitted defeat. There is one Johnny Halliday song that I like (Allumer le Feu) and there are a couple of beautiful songs by Georges Brassens.

I have taken this choice of 30 songs from my own Youtube playlist (30 French songs) that I always stick on when I am writing articles. I have added the songs over the last 5-6 years. There is no real theme or particular style of music, it is just what I have picked up over the years. The list is in no particular order.

You can access the full playlist here: 30 Modern French songs




30. Joyce Jonathan - Ça Ira

This is a pure unabashed happy song. It was played a bit to death on the radio in France about 5 years ago, but I still like it.

Joyce Jonathan is a bit of an modern internet sensation. She uploaded some songs to MySpace when she was just 16 and then it all went a bit mad for her. An album followed when she was just 18 (produced by the guitarist of the famous French rock band Telephone) and that went to #1 in the French charts (and gold within 6 months). 

Her songs have featured on a number of TV shows, including Gossip Girl. This particular song was released in 2013 and it won her the NRJ Music Awards for best female singer and best song.

It is easy to dismiss Joyce Jonathan as just a pop singer, but she does have very clever and funny lyrics.





29. Telephone - Un autre monde

This is very old school French rock. You cannot underestimate how massive Telephone were in the 1980s in France. They were the alternative French rock group that led a break away from the, frankly, terrible French music on the 1970s. There is not a house party in France that does not get going without Telephone being put on. Well certainly the house parties that we go to.

I can't say that I am a massive fan of Telephone myself. But if I created a playlist of the Top 30 French songs and I didn't include this, then there certain French friends of ours that wouldn't speak to us again!






28. Tryo - L'hymne de nos campagnes

If you are coming to France then you need a song which is a.) clearly French in sound; b.) you have no idea what they are singing about; and c.) as catchy as hell. This song hits the spot on all 3.

Although you won't pick it up on this particular song, Tryo are actually a French Ska-Reggae band, playing mainly acoustic songs. Normally, I am not a big fan of white guys singing reggae, but I make an exception with Tryo. They grew up in a rough part of Paris and their songs are politically charged, in a similar fashion to The Beat and The Specials - 2 great Two-Tone bands from the UK in the early 80s.

You don't need to understand what they are singing about, but if you are curious, it goes something like this:

"If you were born in a housing estate I dedicate you this poem

Hoping that the bottom of your dull eyes

You can see a little blade of grass

And the man must make the difference

It is high time to take a break

To trade this morose life

Against the perfume of a rose

{Chorus:} This is the hymn of our countryside. Of our rivers, of our mountains. Of the life of man, of the animal world"


27. Inna Modja - C'est La Vie

I love this upbeat track. Inna Modja comes from Bamako in Mali, a former French colony. She had a big hit in France in 2011 with a song called French Cancan. She is largely unknown outside of France and Mali, which is a real shame.

Growing up in Mali, she had quite a varied musical background, covering everything from her father's old soul records (Ray Charles and Otis Redding) as well as female Jazz singers (Ella Fitzgerald and Sarah Vaughan). Her brothers were into Trash Metal and Hip Hop and her mother encouraged her to sing in the local Church choir. She was also a neighbour of the famous Malian musician, Salif Keita, and she sang for a time with his Jazz Swing group.

She writes all her own songs and she has managed to create a Disco/Soul/Swing sound, which captures a lot of her early influences.




26. Opa Tsupa - Les deux Guitares 

Whenever I hear this song I think of Absinthe. A scruffy little cafe on the Left Bank. Two destitute musicians playing for their lunch. And the barman cleaning all the glasses at the bar. This song has elements of Dr Zhivago,  Django Reinhardt and Jean de Florette rolled into one. If anything conjures up an image of life in Paris in the 1920s and 30s, it is this song.

Opa Tsupa were a 5 piece band composed of guitarists, mandolin players, a violinist, double bass and banjo player. Although all the members of the band were from France, they did have a strong Gypsy and Balkan music influence.

I just love the way the song starts off slow and then picks up towards the finale. 





25. Corneille- Parce qu'on vient de loin

This guy has an amazing voice. He was born and raised in Rwanda and at the age of 17 he witnessed his parents and siblings being assassinated (his father was a politician). He then escaped Rwanda for Germany, before moving to Quebec.

This song dates back to 2002 and was popular in France at the time. The title of the song translates as "Because we come from afar" and is basically about his life as an orphan and an immigrant.






24. Superbus

Superbus is a five-piece French band formed around the charismatic Jenn Ayache on lead vocals. Ayache, is the daughter of a famous French actress (Chantal Lauby) 

Superbus released their first album in 2002 and they have picked up a series of European music awards. They have so far released 5 albums.

This particular song was released in 2009. I think it has echoes of Telephone.







23. Rose - Ciao Bella

Ciao Bella is a song taken from the first album of the French singer-songwriter, Rose. This was the first CD that I bought in France. Rose was born and raised in Nice, but she later studied to be a lawyer and then became a teacher in Paris. However, she continued to write and perform songs in small venues. She released the song La Liste in France in 2006 and it just went huge. An album followed, which went to #5 in the French charts and then her career took off.

I think what I liked about it was that for someone who was struggling to learn French at the time, it was quite easy to pick out the lyrics and understand what the songs were about. 





22. Malted Milk - Brand New Man

Malted Milk play quite an eclectic mix of Soul, Funk and Jazz. I really love the Brass work on this song. This particular song has a real old Soul feel about it and the guitar reminds me a bit of Robert Cray. There is another artist that they really remind me of, but I can't think who it is. It will come to me.

Originally from Nantes,Malted Milk originally started off playing old-style Blues music. But they later developed this into more of a Jazz-Soul-Funk style. 

The band are almost constantly on the road and they are really popular at the summer Jazz festivals circuit in France: Nice, Mirebel, Vienne, Jazz à Luz, Marciac and Jazz à Juan.





21. Luke - Soledad

Well, you've got to have a bit of punk on a playlist. This is a great track to play when you are getting ready for a night out or if you are going for a run. Luke is a French rock band from the South-West of France in Aquitaine.

They enjoyed a bit of success in France on the back of an Alternative Rock scene in the late 90s. This tune was released in 2004. I think that there is a bit of the Buzzcocks about them.

The 'God' of French rock music, Johnny Halliday, once complained that the French language was not suited to rock music because it was difficult to bend it and shorten the expressions to fit the melody. Well, I beg to differ, I think this track just does it perfect. 









See the Top 20-10 French rock songs:

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