While you’re more likely to see a Parisienne in sweatpants than a French song on the US or UK pop charts, there’s a huge appetite for today’s French music among Anglophones. It enjoys a certain popularity among Francophiles, travelers, French-language learners and anyone with an ear for global music.
If you’re interested in contemporary French music but don’t know where to start, get ready to meet 10 hot artists who’ve released new pop, rock, hip-hop and R & B albums in recent years.
1. Coeur de Pirate
Coeur de Pirate is a charming indie pop singer and classically trained pianist, and she’s one of the few artists to become as big in France as she is in her native Québec. Pick up her breakout debut, Coeur de Pirate, and her follow-up, Blonde.
Photo: Sophie Chessoux.
Just want something to shake your booty to? Pop princess Shy’m is the go-to girl for radio singles and dance hits. Her fourth album, Caméléon, is out just in time to make your summer vacation playlist.
3. Benjamin Biolay
As a songwriter and producer, Benjamin Biolay is responsible for some of the top French albums of the past decade. As a singer, he’s the poster boy for the nouvelle chanson movement and is often compared to Serge Gainsbourg for his sensual, melancholy singing style. He’s also a French celebrity, which means his romantic entanglements often make for tabloid fodder. For a Biolay crash course, get his new “best of” album.
Camille is known for her avant-garde style of nouvelle chanson, which often incorporates playful vocal effects and body percussion. Her latest musical experiment was recorded inside church chapels and a 12th-century abbey for the acoustics. Start with her award-winning debut, Le Sac de Filles, and get her latest, a bilingual effort called Ilo Veyou.
5. Christophe Maé
Christophe Maé makes feel-good acoustic pop, infused with folk, reggae, soul and a hint of blues. If you like guitar-strumming singer-songwriters, then this is your guy. Pick up his two studio albums, Mon Paradis and On Trace la Route.
Zaz exploded onto the scene two years ago with her self-titled debut album and the runaway hit “Je Veux.” Her raspy vocals and vintage-y chanson style proved instantly infectious, quickly making her an international star.
7. Ben l’Oncle Soul
Photo: Kalimba M./www.benlonclesoul.com/gallery.php?slug=press-shots-2.
Ben l’Oncle Soul is France’s contribution to the retro soul movement (as popularized by Amy Winehouse and the like). His gruff, powerful vocals recall ’50s and ’60s soul men like Otis Redding and Sam Cooke. Experience the sound on Ben’s Live Paris album.
8. Sexion d’Assaut
If you only know one French rap act, make it Sexion d’Assaut. This crew of eight MCs from Paris has been dominating the charts since 2010 with hit after catchy hit. Start with the breakout album L’Ecole des Points Vitaux, and for the latest, pick up L’Apogée.
-M- is the wacky alter ego of Matthieu Chedid, a multi-award-winning singer, guitarist and can’t-miss live performer. Get his breakout sophomore album Je Dis Aime for some funked-up rock, and buy his latest studio album, Mister Mystère, to experience his full musical evolution.
10. BB Brunes
Lastly, if you like danceable indie rock, then BB Brunes might be just your style. At a time when most of the rock coming out of France is either “French touch” (electronic dance) or is sung in English, it’s refreshing to hear a young band like BB Brunes rock out in its native tongue on the ebullient album Nico Teen Love.
Coeur de Pirate
Ben l’Oncle Soul
Celeste Mitchell is an avid Francophile and the founder of the French Music Blog, where you can discover all these French singers and more. She loves exploring Paris’s outdoor spaces. Her favorite Paris haunts are the Rodin Museum garden, Parc Monceau and the Jardin du Luxembourg.
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