C’est la fête de la Bastille!

Since I’m in the middle of a rather boozy Bastille Day I thought I might as well post some French music on this blog. French pop music is widely perceived to be crap. In light of this, when my neighbour Stefan is working in the garden, as he often is, he always has CD music blaring, and it’s all English language songs, though Stefan can’t string even a few words of English together. He often sings along to the songs, mimicking the English lyrics, not knowing the meaning of what he’s actually singing. This is particularly hilarious when it comes to racy lyrics: If you want my body and you think I’m sexy come on, sugar, let me know. If you really need me just reach out and touch me come on, honey, tell me so, tell me so, baby (Stefan’s voice booms out in a little hamlet in France).

Conversely, when I’m working out in the garden I also have music blaring, but I listen to France Bleu, the local radio network. France Bleu play a lot of English language songs, and if they had the choice they would probably like to play almost entirely English language songs, but by law at least 40 percent of songs played on radio stations must be French language. This brings me back to French pop music. If you have the inclination listen to the following songs and make up your own mind as to whether French pop music is crap. I’ll be playing both old and more modern songs. From whatever era, in its time it was all pop music. I’ll kick off with dear old Edith, and no, it’s not Non, Je ne regrette rien (which at the time of writing has more than 56 million views on YouTube). This one’s called La Foule and was released in 1957. Edith Piaf might have had a hard life, but for the era she lived in she certainly had wonderful teeth (and don’t let the French language put you off. Many of the songs I highlight here also have English language lyrics)…

This next song was a big hit shortly after I arrived back in France in 2007; or at least, they played it practically non-stop on France Bleu. Laurent Voulzy has been around for ever and has a big following in France. The song is called Jelly Bean. Note the use of English language in this piece, something that’s now very common in French pop songs…

Charles Trenet was a prolific singer-songwriter who only ever recorded his own material. He died in 2001 at the age of 87. I’m not quite sure what you’ll make of this next song (Trenet is best known for La Mer). My last romantic involvement before I left London in the early 2000s was with a young woman who was crazy about all things French, including Charles Trenet, and in particular a song called Menilmontant, which was recorded way back in 1939. Not much more than a year later the Nazis had invaded France and installed themselves in Paris…

Sébastien Tellier sings in French, English and Italian. His song Divine was the French entry in the 2008 Eurovision Song Contest. At the time it caused a big stir in France because Tellier sung most of the lyrics in English. Oh, and Divine came 19th in the Eurovision…

Enough of well-known artists, so I’ll finish up with two songs from a local band, who are called ‘Hamôn est sur la Lune’ (Hamôn is on the moon), fronted by Nico Hamôn. Here in my region on Bastille Day people will be going out to see bands like this; all kinds of music; all kinds of talent; and it all finishes off with late night firework displays. ‘Hamôn est sur la Lune’ did this concert a few years ago, and their second song, La vie en rose, brings us back full circle to how I started this post, with Edith Piaf…

Bonne journée de la Bastille !

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