Saturday, July 19, 2008

Discovering French Music: An Internet Mixtape

 I've always been very disappointed by anthology's tracklists of French music made by and for foreigners. I'm gonna try to show what is the very best of popular French music according to French people, in its diversity and not only focusing on old chanson française. I have gathered some of the best songs of the best French artists. Obviously, everybody won't agree with this selection but I think it gives a good overlook of what French music really is, from the great songwriters of the 30s to new sounds such as french touch and underground hip-hop.

Some of them are famous abroad (Edith Piaf, Air) but most of them didn't get popular (except for some in other French speaking countries). I will also mention some Belgian artists who have influenced widely the French music and made most of their career in France.
I didn't put any songs of contemporary classical music but there are some great french composers such as Pierre Boulez, Henri Dutilleux, Erik Satie, Edgar Varèse or Oliver Messiaen.

Cover: Brassens

The 30s and 40s

Charles Trenet,the founder of modern chanson.
Edith Piaf, the most famous French singer abroad with a powerfull heartbreaking voice.
Django Reinhardt who mixed gyspy music, French musette and jazz to create jazz manouche, is one of the greatest guitarist of all time.

The 50s

Boris Vian, singer and writer of the St Germain-des-Prés time, he introduced jazz and rock in chanson.
Georges Brassens, the master of chanson française who has given the greatest masterpieces to the genre. He and the other great French songwriter Léo Ferré introduced poem and slang into chanson.
Jacques Brel, the Belgian singer is the third master of French chanson with Brassens et Ferré. 

The 60s and 70s
Johnny Hallyday, inspired by american rock'n'roll, he sang widely popular pop songs and became the first big teen idol. Other famous yéyé artists are Eddy Mitchell, Antoine, Claude françois, Françoise Hardy.
Serge Gainsbourg, first created a real french adult pop and opened it to many styles (reggae, rock, hip-hop, jazz, classical music).
Magma is the most famous french prog-rock band.

The 80s

Bérurier noir is the greatest underground punk rock band, in the same time violent and festive. Listen also to Garçons Bouchers, Mano Negra, Negresses Vertes, Ludwig von 88, Rita Mitsouko, Pigalle.

Alain Bashung, sings an intellectual and dark music between rock, experimentations and chanson.

The 90s

Mano Solo mixes the power of alternative rock with sensibility and songwriting of old chanson. Listen also to Têtes raides, Debout sur le Zinc, Négresses Vertes. For a blend of chanson, rock or reggae, listen to Tryo, Louise Attaque, Sinsemilia, Massilia Sound system.

NTM, most famous and pioneer of French rap who defined the sound of what we call French hip-hop . For other great old-school French rap, listen to IAM, Assassin, Mc Solaar.

The 00s

TTC, leader of the new French rap, influenced by anticon's artists, pop and electro. Listen also to Klub des Loosers, La Caution, James Dellek, Saïan Supa Crew.

Air, influenced by house and rock of the 70s (like Serge Gainsbourg) is one of the famous member of the French electro called “French touch”. Listen also to Daft Punk, Motorbass, DJ Cam, Laurent Garnier, Justice.

Nosfell uses human beatboxing, guitar and cello to give a deep and original music. Other good bands in Dub/abstract hip-hop/jungle are High Tone, le peuple de l’herbe and Ez3kiel.

1. Fréhel - Où sont mes amants (Vandair - Charlys , 1935)
2. Charles Trenet – La Mer (1946)
3. Edith Piaf – L’Accordéoniste (Michel Emer, 1940)
4. Django Reinhardt and Grappeli – Les Yeux Noirs (1940)
5. Boris Vian – Le Déserteur (Harold Berg, 1954)
6. George Brassens – Il n’y a pas d’amour heureux (Aragon, 1943, 1953)
7. Jacques Brel – Amsterdam (Olympia 1964, 1964)
8. Barbara - Si la photo est bonne (Le Mal de vivre, 1964)
9. Johnny Hallyday – Killy Watch (1960, The Cousins)
10.Léo Ferré - La Mémoire Et La Mer (Amour Anarchie, 1970)
11. Serge Gainsbourg – Ballade De Melody Nelson (Histoire de Melody Nelson, 1971)
12. Magma -Mekanik Kommandoh (Mekanïk Destruktïẁ Kommandöh, 1973)
13. Bérurier Noir – Je t’aime Elsa (Macadam Massacre, 1984)
14. Mano Solo – Allez Viens (La marmaille Nue, 1993)
15. Alain Bashung – La Nuit Je Mens (Fantaisie militaire, 1998)
16. NTM – Seine Saint-Denis Style (Suprême NTM, 1998)
17. TTC – Dans le club (Bâtards sensibles, 2004)
18. Air – Dead Bodies (Virgin Suicides OST, 2000)
19. Nosfell – Your Servant To The Ground (Poma e klokochazia balek, 2005)


Anonymous said...

Great idea, make a blog with reserch about french music history.
Very nice...


P.S - I have a blog to

pyrox said...

a few remarks : air is not a french house group. They play electro.

during the 60s and the early 70s, gainsbourg did sing in a real "chanson française" style. It's only during the late 70s, the 80s and the early 90s that he began to miw the other styles you mention, because he was losing his voice (thx to cigarettes and alcohol :-) )

same for alain bashung : the 80s albums are very rock. the experilmentation comes qith the loose of his voice.

and to finish, i do agree with your appreciation of TTC. I don't consider them like the new lead band of french hip-hop. They're not representative of what the french MCs did.
In fact, i don't think that there's actually a young lead group in french hip-hop.
The best are yet IAM, Solaar and NTM, those, as you said, who were the pioneers of this music in France.

Boebis said...

Pirox: you're right about Air, i correct the article.

I agree also with Gainsbourg. He started by classic chanson but now I think most of the people remember him for what he did in the 70s and 80s. And his greatest album "History of Melody Nelson" has been released in 1971, and it was not "real french chanson" already!

For TTC, I agree they are not representative of the oldschool french rap but they are the most wellknown band of the indie rap scene (with La Caution, l'Armée des 12, Klub des loosers and many others). To my mind, if there is a leader of mainstream and commercial french rap, it is definitely Booba. He's like 50cent or Kanye West in the US.

pyrox said...

about booba, that's right he's not representative of old school french hip-hop. He uses music to prove that people from french ghettos ("les cités" en français) can lead a successful bizness. this is the way that Jay Z, Puff Daddy for exemple used to walk in. In france, the hip hop mouvement used to be a way to denounce social problems et inequalities. It's an approach that was lead by East Coast old bands : The Wu Tan Klan, A Tribe Called Quest.

Anonymous said...

File not found :/ Possible to up again?

P.S. Your blog is really the bestest! :)