Whether you are planning a trip to Paris, you’re learning the French language, or you want a cheap vacation without having to do as much as get up from your chair – what else but a couple of French songs to transport you to the faraway city of Paris?
This list of French songs has been carefully curated to tick all the boxes typical of a French café mood.
So, plug in your stereo, boot up your streaming service of choice, and listen to these French hits, which are sure to transport you en France; recommended pairing: a patio during sunrise with a little coffee and a croissant.
22 French Songs That You’ll Never Forget
Here are some of our favorite French songs that will transport you to a Parisian cafe. Don’t believe us? Turn the volume up, close your eyes, and enjoy!
1. La Vie En Rose By Edith Piaf
Arguably, the most recognizable song by the “Little Sparrow,” as Edith Piaf (French celebrity) is often called, and the entirety of French songs is La Vie en Rose, meaning “The Life in Pink.”
This catchy tune was released after WW2 and related to those who found joy and meaning in life, and more particularly – love – after wartime strife.
La Vie en Rose was covered by Madonna, Lady Gaga, Dean Martin, and many more singers.
Feel yourself fly off to a different time and place as you listen to the silvery voice of Piaf crooning to the iconic melody. Who knows? With the right setting and mood, you may begin to see life in a shade of pink.
2. Comme D’Habitude By Claude François
Meaning “by habit” or “as per usual,” Comme D’Habitude is a song about the day-to-day routine leading to a person falling out of love in a romantic relationship.
François derived inspiration for the song from his failed relationship with famous French singer France Gall.
Touching on topics many people feel in a long-lasting relationship that grows tedious, the voice of François and the accompanying arrangement starts softly while slowly growing more and more intense – as all feelings of love and falling out of love do.
3. La Bohème By Charles Aznavour
Whenever you ask French people who their favorite singer is (an inevitable conversation somewhere along the way), chances are high the answer will be Charles Aznavour.
What better song is there to epitomize his incredible voice and career than his signature song, La Bohème?
The popular song takes the perspective of an old French painter longing for his youth in Montmartre despite being bitterly impoverished.
It is thus a classic song about reminiscence, and that nostalgia’s scent hangs over the chanson’s entirety.
The lyrics, written by Jacques Plante, are particularly powerful and can be attributed to the famous French lyricist.
4. Ne Me Quitte Pas By Jacques Brel
Another classic among the French songs to make it to the list is Ne Me Quitte Pas (“Don’t Leave Me”) by Jacques Brel.
Naturally, one can devise what this famous song is about. However, Brel asserts that it is “a hymn to the cowardice of man.”
It is believed that the song was written after Brel’s mistress, Zizou, kicked Brel out of her life. Zizou (Suzanne Gabriello) confessed to Brel that she was pregnant with his child.
Brel refused to accept this as the truth and claimed it must be another man’s child. Due to these sharp words, Zizou had an abortion.
5. Je T’aime Moi Non Plus By Jane Birkin And Serge Gainsbourg
One of the more rocky and experimental tracks on this list, Je T’aime… Moi Non-Plus (I love you… me neither) is a song full of suggestive themes and sounds, stylized by the heavy breathing of singer, actress, and model Jane Birkin.
The song, funnily enough, was originally recorded by Gainsbourg and his lover at the time, Brigette Bardot, in 1967.
Only in 1969 did the version featuring Birkin (Gainsbourg’s new lover) release, which soon topped the charts worldwide.
The French love song’s meaning is to celebrate love-making – no wonder all those stereotypes exist, hein?
6. Quelqu’un M’a Dit By Carla Bruni
A song colored by rhythmic fingerpicking on the guitar and an equally rhythmic and smoky voice, the Italian French Carla Bruni could have anyone wrapped around her finger after only once listening to this sweet song.
Quelqu’un M’a Dit, meaning “someone told me,” is a song laced with the sadness and difficulty of life and losing a lover.
The chorus from which the song’s title and corresponding album name derive states, “someone told me that you still love me; would it be possible then?”
She has a sliver of hope, yet the overwhelming indifference in the rest of the song may indicate otherwise.
7. Tous Les Garçons Et Les Filles By Françoise Hardy
Translating to “all the boys and the girls,” Tous Les Garçons Et Les Filles is a French song about a teenage girl singing about the boys and girls her age falling in love; the girl herself, though, has yet to experience the feeling of love.
Therefore, the song’s narrator is frustrated, lonely, and slightly envious. Despite the lyrics, the song has a slightly happy tone to it.
The lyrics, however, hit home, and there is some authenticity to it, as Françoise Hardy was only 18 years old when it was released in 1962 and became a hit in French pop music.
8. Non, Je Ne Regrette Rien By Edith Piaf
A song that sounds like it is an ode to living life to its fullest, Non, Je Ne Regrette Rien (no, I don’t regret anything), is Edith Piaf’s other chef d’oeuvre.
As she passed away three years after its release in 1960, it is considered one of her final great works.
Like many of her others, the song has a strong, optimistic tone, uplifting the French population and the world with her words, voice, and bright face.
Feel your past mistakes wash away and turn a new page as the little sparrow sings to you.
9. Alexandrie Alexandria By Claude François
The icon combining disco with French songs, Claude François, released this funky French hit for discothèques worldwide.
Filled with head-bopping drums, a bassline that will drive you to the dancefloor and further, and the melodies of the strings to do all the rest – this song is sure to lead any French-styled disco party.
The French artist narrates the story of Alexandra, a woman in Alexandria whom he loves yet will never attain.
He tells of all the crazy things he would do to make her love him, such as drinking all the water in the Nile River and much more.
10. Pour Un Infidèle By Coeur De Pirate And Julien Doré
Pour Un Infidèle is a song “for an unfaithful person” about a liar and a cheater.
If you notice something different about Coeur de Pirate’s accent, it may be because she is a Francophone Canadian.
It is well known that the Quebecois have a different way of speech than the French and Belgians. Nonetheless, this is a beautiful French song with a meaning many can relate to.
11. Sacre Charlemagne By France Gall
After mentioning Gall’s name concerning Claude François, you didn’t think we’d leave her out of the equation, did you?
Often claimed to have one of the most interesting and innocent voices of her time, France Gall sings the lyrics by her father, Robert Gall.
Gall’s innocent-sounding voice matches the lyrics well since it is about contempt for having to go to school. How does this concern the medieval King Charlemagne?
Well, he is traditionally accredited as the founder of schooling. This one is for all the kids who have faked a stomachache to get a day off from their seemingly endless studying.
Pssst: Want more recent popular music? Go for Stromae, this Belgian singer has many French tunes worth checking out. We also recommend checking out the Formidable music video–quite interesting.
12. Le Sud By Nino Ferrer
Ferrer’s most impressive hit, Le Sud (the South), is about a place that looks like Louisiana but is actually in Italy.
Though the song has a happy vibe, describing a lovely summer setting and a place he would like to live.
Like many French songs, however, this one ends on a sad note about the inevitable war (presumably the Vietnam War, which was taking place at this time).
Ferrer says it is nice to imagine these lovely views, gardens, and ambiance, but it is wrong considering the strife going on elsewhere.
13. Les Lacs De Connemara By Michel Sardou
Starting the song with someone aggressively striking dark notes on the piano, it quickly takes a turn and becomes reminiscent of an Irish jig.
No wonder Michel Sardou dedicates this song to the lakes of Connemara in Ireland.
The song was written somewhat by accident; even stranger is that Sardou wrote this song without even visiting Ireland.
According to some sources, the song results from a synthesizer sounding like a bagpipe, inspiring the writers to continue with the Celtic theme throughout the song’s inception.
14. L’Aventurier By Indochine
Probably the most upbeat song of all featured hits on our list of French songs, L’Avanturier (meaning the adventurer) follows the story of Bob Morane.
This fictional character always manages to escape the sticky situations that seem to follow him wherever his adventures take him.
The song reached No. 4 on the French music charts, which is quite impressive since its sound was completely against the grain of traditional French music at the time.
Nevertheless, it is a fun song that manages to light a fire of adventure in the hearts of those who listened.
15. Pour Que Tu M’Aimes Encore By Celine Dion
Contrary to what many may believe, Celine Dion is a Canadian artist born in the French-speaking city of Charlemagne.
Pour Que Tu M’Aimes Encore (“so that you love me again”) is her most critically acclaimed French hit.
The lyrics list everything Dion is willing to do so that her lover will fall for her once more.
The song went platinum in France and is one of few foreign language songs that were able to chart in Great Britain, attaining most of its success in the British Isles in Ireland.
16. Joe Le Taxi By Vanessa Paradis
Joe Le Taxi (“Joe the Taxi”) is a French pop song supposedly about a woman called Maria José Leão dos Santos who went by the name “Joe” after fleeing from the authoritative Portuguese government in the ’70s due to her sexual orientation.
The lyrics paint Joe as a sort of Parisian nightlife hero – someone who knows all of the best places in the City of Lights, whether in the little side-streets, along the Seine, and all over the rest of Paris (as one would expect of a good taxi driver).
17. Femme Libérée By Cookie Dingler
Featuring one of the most iconic chord progressions among all of French music, Femme Libérée (free/liberated woman) holds a special place in French culture.
The French and their writers (such as Simone de Beauvoir) have emphasized feminism earlier and perhaps more aggressively than any other culture.
The song, however, seems to challenge feminism by reducing the “liberated woman” to no more than a magazine-loving, sex-craving, cigarette-smoking, fragile figure.
Moreover, the band is all male, and the lyrics were written by a woman named Joelle Kopf. Perhaps it is a satire on the traditional male point of view, but who is to say?
18. Les Champs-Élysées By Joe Dassin
Joe Dassin’s voice is enough to make anyone swoon while he sings his joyful song about the beautiful Champs-Élysées.
The song is simple and follows the melody of “Waterloo Road,” yet it is enough to put a gentle smile on anyone’s face while the brass instruments do all the rest.
19. Foule Sentimentale By Alain Souchon
In this song, Alain Souchon criticizes society, calling it a foule sentimental (“sentimental crowd”).
Essentially, he is trying to say that we have become too materialistic, attaching too many sentiments to non-living objects.
The song won many awards, and its words certainly hold their ground in the world we live in today.
20. Elle Me Dit By Mika
The singer with a technicolor voice, Mika, released his first French song some time back, called Elle Me Dit or “she tells me.”
In this song, a woman (presumably Mika’s mother) tells him that he is acting too much like an adolescent rather than an adult, among other things.
In essence, the song is about being yourself regardless of what others may tell you.
21. Cendrillon By Téléphone
The famous French rock band, Téléphone, sings the story of Cinderella (Cendrillon).
It is a modern take on the classic fairytale, and it concerns the girl’s mistake of naïvely imagining that she will live happily ever after with her newfound love.
The rest of the song follows her downfall, where her husband leaves her for another, she loses her children and eventually succumbs to drugs and prostitution.
Not the happiest ending, but the song itself is quite nice, and everybody likes a darker tale now and then.
22. Amsterdam By Jacques Brel
While its primary melody is a derivative of Greensleeves, Amsterdam is a musical and poetic narrative of sailors leaving the port of Amsterdam.
Brel’s voice grows stronger as the song continues until an epic crescendo. It is truly a French hit with various cultural inspirations.
Would you add other French songs to this list? Drop their names in the comments! We’d love to hear from you!
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