Best French Songs of All Time Tumu Learning

Best French Songs of All Time

Do you ever listen to French music? We don't blame you if you don't—it can be pretty inaccessible. The world of French music is vast and deep. It's easy to feel overwhelmed by all the artists, songs, albums, genres, etc. But how much do you know about their music? With this article, we're aiming to change that.

Learning a language like French is a lot of work. There are so many French learning resources, including textbooks, apps and websites. However, one resource that doesn’t get much credit is songs.

How do songs help in learning French?

Songs are fun and engaging, making it easier to learn new vocabulary and grammar. Songs are also used in the classroom, so children will feel more comfortable hearing them.

1. Learn to speak French effortlessly

Songs can be enjoyable. If the lyrics are in French and you do not understand them, it won’t stop you from quickly becoming familiar with the tune. Turn a song into a story to help memorise vocabulary words. When you dance along to a music video, you get the chance to learn from seeing and hearing different sounds at the same time.

2. Learn grammar while having fun

French songs typically have lots of good structures that can work well as a good example of how to form sentences in French. In addition, many songs will repeat a lot of these structures often. You will therefore pick up on and start naturally using these structures through listening to the lyrics.

3. Gain an ability to link lyrics to real-life situations

The good thing about songs is that they can be enjoyed by everyone regardless of their level or age group. You therefore have the opportunity to identify the structure within the song and form connections with your own life or feelings. It will therefore become easier for you to connect what you are studying in class with something that relates more closely to your own reality or experience.

Have you tried our audio ebook to learn French through songs?

20 French songs to listen to

For your reading pleasure, we've compiled a list of 20 French songs that have helped shape the sound of the country's music industry over the years. We've got some classics on here, too! But what will make this article shine is the fact that each song has been detailed for your convenience. So without further ado


1. La vie en rose (by Édith Piaf)

Edith Piaf album cover

Image credit: Noviscore

This song is about a woman who sees the beauty in life no matter how hard it gets, and is one of the most famous French songs ever written. It has been covered by dozens of artists over the years, but the original version by Édith Piaf is still my favourite. The lyrics are poetic and romantic, and the melody is absolutely beautiful. 

Pink shades of life are known as la vie en rose, which means "cosiness of life" in French.

This song is a classic French love song, and it's no wonder why—the lyrics are so romantic and the melody is absolutely beautiful. If you're looking for a slow ballad to listen to, this is the song for you.

2. À la belle Ă©toile (by Joe Dassin)

Joe Dassin album cover

Image credit: Shazam

This song is about the beauty of the night sky. The singer is watching the stars and wishing he were in love. The singer can't be with his lover, but he envisions that they are together anyway. His friend wonders why he is so sad when all he has to do is sing to make himself feel better, but his friend doesn't understand that the singer is missing his lover who is far away. The singer will keep singing even though it hurts him.

If you need a reminder of how beautiful life can be, this song will give you a boost.

3. Boum! (by Charles Trenet)

Boum! (by Charles Trenet) cover

Image credit: Spotify

Boum! is a song from the 1930s by French singer-songwriter and composer Charles Trenet. The song is one of his many compositions. This song is in French, not English. It means, "Boom!" and was featured as a soundtrack in the 007 movie “Skyfall.” Onomatopoeia is an intricate concept in French, and this song illustrates it very well.

Boum! Many other artists have covered the song over the years, but Trenet's version remains my favourite since it's the original for me. When I heard the lyrics the first time, they kept playing in my head. You should listen to this song while you're working! Hopefully, you will enjoy it as much as I do.

4. Ne me quitte pas (by Jacques Brel)

Ne me quitte pas by Jacques Brel cover

Image credit: Discogs

What an amazing song! It was written in 1959 and like many of Brel's songs, explores the theme of loneliness. This song is particularly sad because the singer pleads with his lover not to leave him even though he knows she will probably eventually do so (though it is clear he hopes she won't). I find this song very touching and it makes me sad to hear it... but in a good way. 

5. Non, Je Ne Regrette Rien (by Edith Piaf)

"Non, Je Ne Regrette Rien" by Edith Piaf cover

Image credit: Amazon

This is a staple of the American music industry. Many movies and TV shows feature the song, which people love to sing along with despite not knowing the words. So if you've ever been caught off-guard by this classic, here's your chance to learn what it says!

Charles Dumont composed "Non, je ne regrette rien" for Piaf in 1960. The song describes a woman who has lived a full life—full of pain, but also great joy. She has no regrets about her past choices and is ready to face death with grace.

In English, you might hear the title translated as "No Regrets," but that doesn't quite translate the true meaning. In French culture, "je ne regrette rien" has a unique connotation. It means that you have fully enjoyed your life, its ups and downs, and have no regrets about anything in your past—even if you're looking forward to a future that most others would see as frightening or painful. 

Master French tenses with songs! Check out our audiobook.

 

6. Papaoutai (by Stromae)

Papaoutai by Stromae cover

Image credit: Wikipedia

This song by Belgian artist Stromae tells the story of a father who feels disconnected from his family because of his busy work schedule. During the chorus, the boy asks "Papa oĂč t'es?" meaning "Where are you, Daddy?" The song illustrates perfectly the struggle of being a working parent as well as the importance of family. While this song is in French, it is still extremely catchy despite being in the language. This is a fantastic song that you're going to want to listen to over and over! 

7. Le Lion Est Mort Ce Soir (by Henri Salvador)

Le Lion Est Mort Ce Soir by Henri Salvador lyrics

Image credit: Flashlyrics

This song, written by Henri Salvador, is also performed by the French folk band Tryo and tells the story of a lion that was killed by hunters. The beautiful melody and the poetic lyrics are familiar to anyone who has seen The Lion King.

8. Pour que tu m'aimes encore (by Céline Dion) 

Pour que tu m'aimes encore by CĂ©line Dion cover

Image credit: Wikipedia

French- Canadian CĂ©line Dion had a hit song with "Pour que tu m'aimes encore" in the 90s, and it is a real tear-jerker. The song is about a woman who realises that her husband is leaving soon, and she wants to spend her last moments with him—so she sings this song to persuade him to stay with him and give him one more chance. The woman knows that it would be better for her husband to leave her and find someone else who can take care of him better than she can. However, she still wants to spend as much time with him as possible. It's kind of beautiful.

9. Je Me Tire (by MaĂźtre Gims)

Je Me Tire by MaĂźtre Gims album cover

Image credit: Spotify

This song features MaĂźtre Gims' signature rapid-fire, captivating rhythms and street-smart lyrics that make it a perfect choice for fans of French hip hop. If you're having trouble with French pronunciation or catching the lyrics, don't worry. Here's what the title means: I'm pulling myself out of this situation/I'm taking myself out of the picture. Just listen to the catchy tune and keep listening until you know it by heart, and soon enough you'll be able to sing along!

10. Gentlemen Vikey (by G.G. Vikey)

Gentlemen Vikey by G.G. Vikey cover

Image credit: Shazam

This is one of my favourite French songs because it tells a story. The song is about a man named Vikey, who's travelling around Africa and singing about how much he loves it there. Africa is his home, and he talks about how beautiful the country is every day because there's always the sun shining down. He would bring his guitar with him everywhere he went—he'd play it for his friends and family, and they'd dance around to his songs. 

11. On Ă©crit sur les murs (by Kid’s United)

"On Ă©crit sur les murs" by Kid’s United lycris

Image credit: YouTube

It is important to know the song "On Ă©crit sur les murs le nom de ceux que l'on aime." This song is more than just a love song; it's an anthem of peace. It's all about writing the names of people you love (and who love you) on walls as graffiti. A group called Kid's United performs the song as part of UNICEF's efforts to spread messages of peace around the world.

12. Omniprésent (by Damien Robitaille)

Omniprésent by Damien Robitaille cover

Image credit: Le Canal Auditif

Omnipresent, what a beautiful way to say that you have roots in two entirely different places. The more you look at the lyrics, the more you realise how Franco-Ontarian Damien Robitaille is. About the fact that we are all sometimes more English (New York) and sometimes more French (Paris). We sometimes live in a city and sometimes in the country. Sometimes from the first-person point of view of someone else and sometimes from our own point of view. However, whatever we're doing, one thing is certain: we always remain ourselves.

13. Laissez passer (by MaĂźtre Gims)

Laissez passer by MaĂźtre Gims cover

Image credit: Wikipedia

Laissez passer is my personal favourite song on the album. Although it may not be the most notable track, the beat is simply very good and the words are heartfelt. It is a song about letting things go, letting toxic people or feelings go and moving forward in life. It’s about getting rid of unneeded baggage and carrying only positive emotions. This powerful message is exactly what needed to be portrayed in this album and I’m very glad that Gims was open enough to share it with us on this song.

14. Les lacs du Connemara (by Michel Sardou) 

Les lacs du Connemara by Michel Sardou cover

Image credit: Amazon

There is an emotional element to this song, but I still enjoy it for its waltz tune and its message - which highlights the tensions between Ireland's Catholic and Protestant communities in the 1970s. Sardou re-recorded this song from his first album after protesters marched, stating that it was insulting to both sides to be included together on a list of conflicts. He re-recorded the song with only the verse relating to the Protestant side, as a response to this.

15. C’est l’aviron (by Les Grenadiers ImpĂ©riaux)

C’est l’aviron (by Les Grenadiers ImpĂ©riaux)

Image credit: YouTube

If you’re from Nova Scotia or the Acadian region, chances are you’re familiar with the tune and lyrics to “C’est l’aviron” – even if you don’t realise it. Most people learned it in elementary school, but it is a traditional folk song that has been passed down for generations in Acadian communities. I am a fan of the a cappella touch in this song.

16. Je veux (by Zaz)

Je veux Zaz album cover

Image credit: Last.fm

Wanting is great, at least according to Zaz in “Je veux”. You’re probably familiar with the lyrics if you speak any French. It has become a catchphrase that is widely used in France and was even the tagline for a French beer commercial . But not only is this song catchy and upbeat, it also has a pretty incredible backstory.

17. Champs Elysées (by Joe Dassin)

Champs Elysées by Joe Dassin lyrcis

Image credit: Fnac

Let’s talk about a classic. This tune has been around for 47 years, and is still popular to this day. Its rhythm may be slow and its pace may be easy, but it still carries its original characteristics from the 1970s when it was first released. So if you want to learn some French – at least the basics – then this is one of the vintage French songs you don’t want to miss.

18. Elle Me Dit (by MIKA)

Elle Me Dit (by MIKA)

Image credit: Mika Sounds

In the days before MIKA's Grace Kelly (I can be brown, blue, or violet sky) became popular on TikTok, there was Elle Me Dit. MIKA is singing about how his mother used to say things about him, and he laughs at her in response. French audiences became quite familiar with the song after it was performed at the Eurovision Song Contest. People have enjoyed listening to MIKA sing his so-called "cheesy songs" and dancing in his music videos, including Sing My Song. Therefore, to celebrate the greatness of the French artist, I will present a list of other hit songs by MIKA that you can’t miss!

19. Feel the Magic in Air (by Magic System ft Chawki)

 Feel the Magic in Air

Image credit: YouTube

The moment Chawki (Morocco) and Magic System (Ivory Coast) first got together, they knew their voices would sound great together. This song is proof of that. The magical touch they bring to every performance, whether it's live or on the radio, makes Chawki and Magic System a must-listen.

20. La Mer (by Charles Trenet)

La Mer (by Charles Trenet)

Image credit: YouTube

This artist and this song represent a pivotal moment in the history of recorded music. It's what people mean when they talk about "the good old days." You see, the songs that we enjoy today didn't just appear out of nowhere. They had to be recorded by musicians who worked hard to create something beautiful. And that's exactly what Charles Trenet's recording of "La Mer" is – a work of art.

Tip:

Knowing the most popular songs in French will help you improve your speaking skills and become fluent. And once you have a better grasp of it, get the lyrics and sing along! By doing so, you can easily memorise them and add them to your vocabulary. 

That was our list of 20 French songs you should listen to if you want to learn French. All these songs are great for a variety of reasons. Some are fun, some are historically significant, and all have some sort of story behind them that is interesting to know.

Which famous French songs did we miss that you think should have been included here? Leave a comment and let us know!

 

About the author

Stephanie blog writer picture

Stephanie has a knack for making language learning and teaching fun and engaging. She holds a Master of Arts and a Bachelor's Degree in French Studies and is fluent in three languages. The writer has lived in France, Ghana, and Canada, and enjoys reading, travelling, and writing about her adventures.

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