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A retrospective of French music

January 18, 2011 4:02 pm
posted by Rebecca

Oh la la and indeed, sacre bleu, the first Gallic music station has launched in London.  French Radio London has sent shockwaves across the capital, generating a bevy of questions such as ‘is French pop music any good?’??!

We thought we’d inspire you to tune into the new digital station – or fill your MP3 player for when you hit the slopes – with a run-down of French music through the ages.

Here’s everything you need to know about French pop, from Piaf to Paradis and beyond.

In the beginning…French pop music in the ’40s, ‘50s and ‘60s

Once upon a time in France…there was Chanson, a brand of popular ballads, often romantically influenced.  Edith Piaf, the cabaret diva, is one of the legends of this genre.  Even the most Francophobic will have heard ‘La Vie en rose’ (1946) and ‘Non, je ne regrette rien’ (1960).

Piaf led the way for a whole generation of singing sirens.  For a more modern rendition of her classics, kooky French-Canadian singer, Martha Wainwright has dedicated an entire album and stage show to Piaf covers, ‘Sans Fusils Ni Souliers A Paris’.

The golden age of Chanson Française in the 50s and 60s was dominated by French icons such as post war poet and composer, Georges Brassens, as well known in France as the Beatles are in the UK!

The ‘60s also saw the rise of pop prince, Johnny Hallyday, dubbed the French Elvis (more Tom Jones!).  At his heyday in the swinging sixties, Hallyday is definitely now on the luke warm side of cool.

French prog rock and punk, ‘70s and ‘80s

The French led the way in the prog rock scene of the 1970s.  Magma combined jazz, opera and more to create a dark mega-mix of groundbreaking music.   Drummer and founder, Christian Vander, is said to have invented his own language to express the post-apocalyptic story lines of the band’s albums…erm, right.

From prog rock to punk rockers, the French continued to inspire…pub rock, pop punk, synth rock…heady days!

One of the most successful French bands of the 1980s was Les Rita Mitsouko.

Pop trivia for you – American band Sparks collaborated with the duo on their third album.

We can’t leave the ‘80s behind without singing the praises of songstress Vanessa Paradis.  Joe le taxis was at number one in the French charts for 11 weeks, even becoming a hit in the UK (fuelling fantasies for generations of teenage boys).


French music – house and electronic, ‘90s and ‘00s

Ah now we’re talking pop pickers!  These are the decades when French pop explodes onto the international stage with a whole host of chart tastic talent.

Not least of all are the dulcet tones of the current first lady, Carla Bruni-Sarkozy.  After leaving a modelling career for music, the talented Ms Bruni produced three albums (and is still recording to date).  Ms Bruni’s repertoire includes singing for Nelson Mandela on his 91st birthday, and having her debut album title track on the soundtrack for 2009 rom-com smash hit, (500) Days of Summer.

Disco house, Neu-disco , French touch, filter house or tekfunk – call it what you will, euro disco is definitely ‘at home’ in France.  The likes of Daft Punk and Air are successful exports of this funky scene.

Other notable names include DJ Etienne de Crécy who spearheaded the commercial success of the genre (and not to forget ‘70s father of electronic, Jean Michele Jarre).

French music – What’s hot now??

The current French top 40 is dominated by names like David Guetta, René la taupe – the mobile ringtone singing groundhog – zouk and ragga rapstars Collective Métissé.   Perhaps not a very fair representation.

The success of pop talent contest, the Star Academy, has spawned a new generation of popstars not dissimilar to the X Factor-y across the Channel.  Whilst many creations could be dismissed out of hand, Nolwenn Leroy has gone on to reinvent herself and continues to top the charts.

Shot to prominence when they posted a song on My Space in 2005, Yelle will be opening on tour for Katy Perry in the UK in 2011.  The band is at the heart of the current ‘techtonik’ music scene, check out the groovy dance moves:

Other ones to watch include:

Zaz (not to be confused with been round the block Zazie) the nom de plume of hot new gypsy jazz singer (Isabelle Geffroy).

Tété is a self-taught singer, songwriter and guitarist, one of French music’s most successful young stars.

And for something a little bit different, check out French folk rock band, La Maison Tellier – very Mummford and Sons.

And if the sounds created by our Gallic cousins is music to your ears, check out these three Pierre & Vacances properties where you’ll be in close proximity to hot live music events and venues:

Take in some jazz at the Rue des Lombards, home to three of Paris’ smoothest jazz clubs including the newly renovated  Duc des Lombards. Stay at the nearby Aparthotel Paris Opera.

Avoriaz is home to a plethora of exciting music events this season including the innovative new ski-to Concert du Sauvages or Wild Concerts Festival which takes place from April 2-9, 2011. Access to the gigs, which will take place on pop up stages in secret mountain locations throughout the Portes du Soleil ski region, is free with a Portes du Soleil ski pass. Locations will be revealed by SMS text prior to each gig. Register here.

Pierre et Vacances has nine fantastically located self catering residences in Avoriaz 1800 all of which are ski in, ski out.

Pierre & Vacances website for the latest amazing  offers.

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