Music sure is one way to learn a language. It can also motivate learners, spark interest, and create memories that last a lifetime. In the foreign language classroom, I have incorporated French-speaking music artists into my lessons almost daily. Myself and other language teachers in the U.S. have created March Music Madness brackets that feature many talented artists from all over the world.
These songs and artists leave a lasting impression on our audience. In this post, I am going to discuss some current French-speaking artists that have not only been successful in their native country but also inside the walls of my classroom.
It would be impossible to start with any other artist. I cannot even begin to describe how much of a lasting impression this artist has had on the French music scene over the past almost 20 years. He has had the same magnetic hold on me as a French music fan. I am also 100% sure that all of my students past and present know who he is.
Stromae is a Belgian musician of many hats. He is a singer, songwriter, rapper, and the overall definition of what it means to be an artist. If you have seen his music videos or live performances you would likely say that he is a dancer and an actor as well. If you haven’t, I’ll start you off with his most requested song about growing up without a father figure, “Papaoutai.”
Other catchy favorites with deeper meanings include: “Carmen,” “Formidable,” “Alors on danse,” and “Tous les mêmes.” Stromae currently has a fashion label, mosaert, which was sound-tracked to “Défiler” upon its release. French-speaking and non-French-speaking music fans alike (im)patiently await his return to the industry.
Christine and the Queens, or Chris, is one of the most well-known French-speaking artists of today. I discovered her on BBC Radio 1 in 2014 with her single, “Titled.” She is the best of both worlds because she records all of her songs in both French and English! This song is so catchy. I played it so many times.
When I first started listening to her, her style reminded me of the ’80s. Upon learning more about her, I discovered that some of her influences were Michael Jackson and David Bowie. For whatever reason, her music only seems to resonate with a few of my students, but I’ll keep spinning her albums! It was unfortunate she had to miss her weekend 2 performance at Coachella as I have heard from many that she is an outstanding performer. She sets herself apart from the popular music of today. My favorite track off of her current album, Chris, is “Les yeux mouillés,” combining both languages in an emotional ballad.
Coeur de Pirate is another fan favorite in the French-speaking music world. I think I discovered her in college because a professor of mine from Québec played her music video for our class. Which reminds me! I had a moment of déjà vu in France two years ago…I walked into a classroom full of French teachers while the same video was playing in the background. The song was “Francis” and it had me hooked ever since.
My students have always loved her, and she seems to release music pretty often. It has been hard to keep the favorites out of the March Music Madness competitions because of their attachment to specific artists. All-time favorite tracks are “Adieu,” “Comme des enfants,” “C’était salement romantique,” “Drapeau Blanc,” “Crier tout bas,” and “Prémonition.” Check out her catchy new break-up song, “Ne m’appelle pas.”
Tal has been referred to many times by my students as “French Beyoncé.” While hardcore Bey fans stay true to their queen, they all agree that she has very catchy songs that stick with them for days. Tal’s song “Le sens de la vie” was the first song that I remember memorizing word for word in French. It is hard to believe that it has been six years since its release. I still share this music video with students every year, and it quickly gets stuck in their heads.
As soon as one of her hits gets played on repeat, it seems she’s out with another. Just as catchy but more English-speaker friendly was “Le temps qu’il faut.” It has a Beyoncé vibe with a powerful message about living in today’s technology-filled society. Her most recent single, “Mondial,” released in support of the French National Team in the 2018 World Cup, went on to win our annual competition. She may be the current French Queen of Pop.
Polo & Pan are a duo that everyone at Coachella seemed to rave about; however, I was not previously aware of them. I also unknowingly missed their set due to Anderson .Paak and The Free Nationals and The 1975 playing at the same time…
Anyway, I gave them a deeper listen after Coachella to see what the hype was all about. I was also super excited to hear that one of the most notable sets of the weekend came from French-speaking artists! “Canopée” sounds like a classic chanson française that you could listen to on an exotic island while sipping a Mai Tai. It’s a perfect summer vibe.
“Coeur croisé” has all of the elements of a perfect French song. Remnants of timeless chanson française artists as well as jazz are noticeable throughout the track. Of course, there is the ever prominent modern-day electronic energy. It sounds blissful. I don’t know how they do it. Their videos, however, will have to remain à la maison as they are for mature audiences only.
So it seems I’ve saved the duos for last. Bigflo & Oli are a French hip-hop duo that has risen to the top of the charts in the past couple of years. And they are frères (brothers)!
Their song “Dommage” came out at the perfect time for our March competition and won by a landslide. It has such a great message, and the kids spent so much time dissecting the meaning and music video. It taught many lessons. It’s also clearly understood and so fun to memorize! And, guess who co-wrote and co-produced the song? None other than STROMAE.
I personally also enjoy their songs “Je suis,” “Plus tard,” and “Sur la lune.” They have a great way of telling a story, and that is what I appreciate most in songwriting.
Any new French-speaking artists that I should add to my list? I always appreciate recommendations from my francophone friends. Merci !