Culture Shock: France

Considering they are just across the Channel, there are very few French bands that are popular in the UK. This is such a shame as it is a really lovely language and there are many super talented artists. Whilst many of us had to endure some ‘interesting’ GCSE French lessons probably leaving you with the very basics of the language, if you are keen to learn a little more than ‘I play football in the park with my brother,’ French music is a great place to start. Much like music from home, there are so many different genres, from your classic love ballad all the way through to some very politically motivated rap.

Many French artists also choose to sing in English. This links back to the fact that English words can be tweaked to fit the melody of the song without changing the overall meaning of the lyric too much. French pronunciation is very important, the stressing of a syllable ever so slightly differently can change the word totally. To avoid this issue, in the song Sweet Darling by Fréro Delavega, the boys choose to sing predominately in French and the chorus in English as it makes it easier to rhyme and fit the melody. The song is a real cheesy feel-good tune. However, the boys also have a range of other songs that appeal to a wide audience (Mon petit pays and Le chant des sirènes from their debut album are worth a listen). After gaining their success from the French equivalent of The Voice, the album reached number one on SNEP – the official French album charts.

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Another top French band you should be listening to are La Femme, who are a particularly interesting group. Best described as ‘psychedelic-punk’, they are unlike anything I have previously heard. They have successfully been able to bring something totally new to the indie scene with their different sound, something that hasn’t been achieved by many – so often now, groups classified as ‘indie’ sound the same! Où va le monde is probably their most popular song but I would also recommend It’s Time to Wake Up 2023 – despite the title being in English, the lyrics are all in French so its something a bit different to your everyday listening. Even if you don’t know a single word of French, rest assured that you’ll still enjoy the music – the instrumentation and make-up of each song means that you do not have to focus intently on the lyrics to appreciate it.

Personally, I use French music for studying because whilst I enjoy it, I don’t find myself getting distracted by singing along as my language skills aren’t that great yet. However, it is really exciting when you manage to translate little bits of the songs! Nevertheless, I really encourage you to go and check out some French tunes, it offers a refreshing change and a chance to feel highly cultured when you recommend a band from the outskirts of Paris to your musical friends.

If you find yourself enjoying the music, then it’s worth checking out Main Square Festival in Arras, an international music festival held in the first week of July only two hours from Paris. Predominately a showcase of indie rock, the festival offers an opportunity to engage with a range of new bands from across the continent and it is significantly cheaper than many festivals in the UK.