Britain and America’s massive music scenes dominate the world of rock and pop. Across Europe particularly, music from English-speaking countries has not so much infiltrated as bombarded countries with foreign sounds. It is no surprise then, that with music, films and television, English has become the third most spoken language in the world – behind all Chinese variants and Hindi. Considering the miniscule country from which the word ‘English’ is taken, this is a lucky break for lazy British and American tourists. Famous for their dissent on linguistic matters, France stands out from other European countries in their reaction to this musical invasion. The French, over the last few decades, have had their language and culture remoulded by Britain and America as with many other countries, but they have fought back. In France now, La Chanson Francaise (‘French Song’) is still a favourite; many French radio stations have banned the playing of English-language music, and there is an actual law stating that 40% of prime-time output on French radio must be French music. Is this going too far? What is wrong with French people being exposed to music from dominant cultures? Similarly, with L'Académie française attempting to keep English words out of common usage, what is wrong with the development of language in this way? Arguments can be thrown either way. As a summary, while English isn’t a sinister tyrant language and is useful for everyone to know, it has to be recognised that the dominance of one culture globally could be dangerous, and highly bland. Hearing a little French kid singing Miley Cyrus isn’t the nicest moment of any holiday. Multi-culturalism is one thing; destruction of authentic traditions and diversity is a different bag.
Edith Piaf
Edith Piaf
Looking at it the other way, France has a lot of good music to offer us. As English speakers, it’s often accepted that we don’t really need to venture outside of our language for entertainment. However, in the last century, France has given us the influential jazz guitarist Django Reinhardt, later the chart-topping Serge Gainsbourg, the Specsavers advert (and immortal singer, for those likely to take offence at that trivialisation) Edith Piaf, well-known alternative rock band Phoenix and many many more. These days, the French music scene is buzzing, with some great guitar bands, singers and rappers doing the rounds. I have my favourites, I admit, although there are huge numbers (the French tag on last.fm is an ideal place to start -click here- ) of artists out there. Here are some of my favourites. Louise Attaque
Founded in 1994 and disbanded in 2007, thirteen years of upbeat folk-rock made the brilliant Louise Attaque famous in France. Their lyrics are clear and easy to pick up even for the Francophobe. It’s exuberant like The Holloways, in a similar summery vein. Déportivo
For those of you more inclined to heavy rock, Déportivo are a good choice. When I was originally searching for French rock, they really caught my attention with their raw, idiosyncratic guitar style, and the original slant that French gives to modern indie rock. Sounding like Dirty Pretty Things at their angriest, Parisian Déportivo are young, only two albums into a career that could be long and prosperous. Adrienne Pauly
Adrienne Pauly is a deliberately controversial musician, also an actress before releasing her first album in 2006. This song is particularly entertaining, and looking up the lyrics is a tour through French puns (yes, bloody idiot and accountant begin with the same first sound). MC Solaar
Though not really my cup of tea, MC Solaar is undeniably a hugely successful French artist – a rapper and DJ famous for his poetic French rap (and yes, rap works better in French than Cockney), he has been going since 1990. His music is melodic, and the language gives the whole sound a much smoother, slicker edge. You don’t really need to understand it, although it’s debatable whether a Brit could understand much American rap either. Dedicated to English listeners of French music, the blog French Kisses is great for discovering French music. Similarly, ’French Music for American Fans’ also provides a window on the ever expanding world of French pop. Whilst a rival to the best music in English speaking countries, French music is also a great way to get to grips with the language and stay interested beyond teach-yourself guides. Also, you never know when you could meet Monsieur or Madamoiselle Right, and La Musique de la France could start that life-changing conversation…