France's new music
If French standards (like Edith Piaf's La vie en rose, Claude François' Comme d'habitude, and Charles Trenet's La mer) still make people hum or burst into song worldwide, the next generation is just as promising. Be it chanson, rap, electro, rock or world, today's French music has secured its place on international hit lists. Open your ears wide while in France, and experience the "French touch" for yourself.
Boulevard, the album by Ludovic Navarre (known as St. Germain), was the first real overseas success story of French electronica. It was even voted 1995 Album of the Year by the British press! Two years later, Daft Punk's release of Homework, with universal hits like Around the World, Alive and Da Funk, played a fundamental role in France's electronic music scene. And Daft Punk continue to do so, as is obvious with the success of their latest album, Random Access Memories. These icons spread the true "French touch" vibration around the world.
You've also certainly heard of Gotan Project, a catchy mix of tango and electronics that has been playing on international airwaves since the release of their first album, Revancha Del Tango. The duo Justice, for its part, became known in 2007 with their album Cross and the appropriately named single, D.A.N.C.E. More recently, the David Guetta phenomenon has conquered the world, producing tracks like I Gotta Feeling for the Black Eyed Peas, and Sexy Bitch, for Akon. In their wake, Martin Solveig and Bob Sinclar have also made it big outside the Hexagon's borders.
In the beginning, the group Phoenix from Versailles was more popular overseas than in France, winning over hearts in America with their album Wolfgang Amadeus Phoenix (with more than 2 million in international sales). Then, in 2009, the group played NBC's Saturday Night Live - the first time ever a French group was invited to perform on the show. In 2010, they took the stage at New York's Madison Square Garden with guest stars, Daft Punk.
Phoenix kicked opened the doors for a generation of French artists, many of whom are now more popular overseas than back home, bands like the Hushpuppies, Kill the Young, Tahiti 80, or M83. Behind this last pseudonym hides Anthony Gonzalez, who performs at the Fuji Rock Festival in Japan and opens shows for bands like Kings of Leon, The Killers, and Depeche Mode.
Air (an acronym for Amour, Imagination, Rêve) released their Moon Safari album in 1998 before going on to soundtrack Sofia Coppola's first full-length film, Virgin Suicides. Alexandre Desplat, another French favourite in Hollywood, scored music for the second Twilight film in 2009; the hit New Moon was big on the charts in 2011. Desplat also appears in the film credits of Moonrise Kingdom, Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows, and The Ides of March, with George Clooney.
The revival of French chanson.
Electronic and pop music are not the only styles that have made it in the international spotlight. Whether singing in French or English, Stromae, Ben l'Oncle Soul, Yael Naim, and Yelle have managed to release tracks that have caught on overseas. Nicolas Godin and Jean-Benoît Dunckel, the duo from Air, stand behind Charlotte Gainsbourg and her album, 5:55, as the biggest sellers outside France. And when it comes to Zaz, this chanteuse was the 2010 phenomenon, with more than 1,8 million albums sold worldwide. Her eponymous first release sold 450,000 copies in Germany alone and is now double platinum. She is also very popular in Eastern Europe and Turkey, even though she sings entirely in French...