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18 Best French Songs Of All Time

18 Best French Songs Of All Time

French-language music can pep up your playlists and help you explore the language and culture of France with a smile. As the world’s leading resource for analyzing the grammar and vocabulary of popular French songs, we’ve broken down many popular French classics to help, including all the hits on this list.

Best French Songs

French pop classics from before the 80s

La Vie en Rose

Edith Piaf, 1947

Is any singer more emblematic of France than Édith Piaf?

“The Little Sparrow,” with a colossal voice, gifted the world some unforgettable songs still winning fans today.

La Vie en Rose (wiki page) might be the oldest song we’ve analyzed. But like an exquisite Bordeaux, this global hit never loses its appeal. According to Spotify, it is Édith Piaf’s most in-demand track.

Released as France and the world recovered from war, “Life in Pink” captured global hearts upon release. Covered by many over the years, it is an ode to love that never grows old.

Complete lyrics translation and analysis of La Vie En Rose

Non, Je Ne Regrette Rien

Edith Piaf, 1960

We’ve previously waxed nostalgic about 12 of the best Édith Piaf songs. So, we couldn’t include just one of her hits on a list of French songs you’ll love.

Matching La Vie en Rose for pathos and passion — and Spotify listens — is the enigmatic Non, Je Ne Regrette Rien (wiki page).

Released in at the height of her career, poignant lyrics recall a kaleidoscopic life with few parallels. A crescendo of pride and heartache is defined by one heartfelt sentiment, “No, I regret nothing.”

If you want to practice those tricky rolling R’s you’ll hear in France, this is the song you’ll want to listen to.

Underlining Piaf’s impact on French music, we’ve also applied our grammar microscope to several other favorites from her extraordinary legacy: Milord, Mon Dieu, and Sous Le Ciel De Paris.

Complete lyrics translation and analysis of Non, Je Ne Regrette Rien

Ne Me Quitte Pas

Jacques Brel, 1959

Jacques Brel’s version of Ne Me Quitte Pas (“Don’t leave me”) recalls the fractious end to his relationship with French TV star and singer Suzanne Gabriello, better known as Zizou.

Poetic and gentle, it is widely seen as a breakup song mourning lost love. Brel said it is actually about regretting trying to keep the relationship alive.

Covered by stars like Johnny Hallyday and Edith Piaf, it is the quintessential French ballad from an icon in France and Brel’s home country, Belgium.

If you like Brel, one of our pick of famous French singers, you might appreciate our insights on his 1964 masterwork, Amsterdam (lyrics analysis and translation on our site).

Complete lyrics translation and analysis of Ne Me Quitte Pas

Tous Les Garçons Et Les Filles

Françoise Hardy, 1962

Tous Les Garçons Et Les Filles (“All the Boys and Girls”) typifies the upbeat yé-yé sound of the 60s pop music. The Beatles-inspired music boosted the career of several household names in France, including Parisian chanteuse Françoise Hardy.

A seemingly optimistic portrait of lovers, Hardy, in fact, laments a life without joy “where no one whispers in my ear” (personne ne murmure je t’aime à mon oreille). It’s 60s French music bottled into one hum-along number.

Complete lyrics translation and analysis of Tous Les Garçons Et Les Filles

La bohème

Charles Aznavour, 1965

The memory of a day in Paris’s bohemian village, Montmartre, is a stone-cold classic movingly brought to life by Charles Aznavour.

France’s Sinatra had a long and multi-faceted career. But the melodic La bohème and its unforgettable chorus is peak Aznavour.

Achingly French, the languid depiction of cafés and carefree artists still holds water today; Oscar-winning Amélie would paint a similarly romantic picture of Montmartre 36 years later.

A beautiful French song evoking memories of youth and a Paris of popular imagination.

Complete lyrics translation and analysis of La bohème

Comme d’habitude

Claude Francois, 1967

Comme d’habitude (“As usual”) depicts a couple pretending nothing has changed, even as their relationship crumbles.

Filled with heartache and pathos, it was Cloclo’s (aka, Claude François) biggest international hit. It was later reworked with English lyrics to become a Frank Sinatra bestseller, “My Way.”

Like the Sinatra version, this song is made for singing along to. Unlike Ol’ Blue Eyes take, the lyrics linger on regrets, with plenty of memorable phrases for language students to absorb.

Complete lyrics translation and analysis of Comme d’habitude

Et Si Tu N’Existais Pas

Joe Dassin, 1975

Joe Dassin is responsible for two megahits. Les Champs Élysées (which we’ve also written about) and his later hit, Et Si Tu N’Existais Pas (“And If You Didn’t Exist”).

Each line of this romantic ballad ponders a life where their lover did not exist. It’s an irresistible earworm that is as French as it gets.

Complete lyrics translation and analysis of Et Si Tu N’Existais Pas

Le Sud (1975)

Nino Ferrer, 1975

Evoking images of lazy, hazy days in the south (Le Sud), this catchy French song from Nino Ferrer is fondly remembered today.

Ostensibly about the similarities between Italy and America’s south, it elegantly captures the spirit of summer.

The lyrics are worth a moment of any language learner’s time, as they’re easy to pick up.

Complete lyrics translation and analysis of Le Sud

Je T’aime…Moi Non Plus

Serge Gainsbourg, 1976

Serge Gainsbourg, the enfant terrible of French pop music wrote, produced, and performed many hits. Je T’aime…Moi Non Plus is his magnum opus.

Written for his lover, Brigitte Bardot, it became a global smash when re-released with Jane Birkin, his former mentee and longtime love.

Translated as “I love you…me neither,” the breathy duet was an international chart-topper remembered for its risqué lyrics infamously banned by the BBC.

Complete lyrics translation and analysis of Je T’aime…Moi Non Plus

The 1980s to 2000

Ella, elle l’a

France Gall, 1987

France Gall (born Isabelle Geneviève Marie Anne Gall) changed her name to honor her home country, gained international fame by winning Eurovision for, er, Luxembourg, and has been a mainstay of French pop music since the 60s.

Her roll call of hits is long, starting with sunny yé-yé tunes and songs penned by Serge Gainsbourg. Later, she worked with Michel Berger, who wrote Ella, elle l’a (“She has it”).

Lyrics and the wordplay in the title pay tribute to Ella Fitzgerald and her indefinable charm (cet indéfinissable charme). It was an international success, still popping up on French radio playlists today.

Want to discover some other yé-yé artists? Our guide to French female singers will help.

Complete lyrics translation and analysis for Ella, elle l’a

Je Te Promets

Johnny Hallyday, 1987

You can’t understate the impact of Johnny Hallyday on French music. The mischievous rock and roller who venerated American music attained demigod status in France. He is responsible for numerous French hits barely known outside his homeland.

Je Te Promets (“I promise you”) is one of his more thoughtful and melodic numbers. Jean-Jacques Goldman composed the song that rolls through a series of commitments to his loved one.

No Johnny concert was complete with this timeless showpiece.

Complete lyrics translation and analysis for Je Te Promets

Pour que tu m’aimes encore

Celine Dion, 1995

Before mega-stardom, Celine Dion built a career singing in her native Quebecois French. Which helped her win her earliest fans in France and neighboring countries (even winning Eurovision for Switzerland in 1988).

“So that you’ll love me again” — Pour que tu m’aimes encore — was written by French hit machine Jean-Jacques Goldman and became Dion’s best-selling French song. The powerful love song spent 12 weeks at number one in France and popped up on music charts globally.

This page on our site covers an extensive list of top Celine Dion songs.

Complete lyrics translation and analysis for Pour que tu m’aimes encore

Joe le taxi (1998)

Vanessa Paradis, 1998

French pop songs don’t get much bigger than Joe le Taxi, an international smash by Vanessa Paradis.

Wispily describing “Joe the taxi” driver’s intimate knowledge of Paris’s nightlife, the words draw inspiration from the life of Maria José Leão dos Santo. She was a real-life taxi driver from Portugal who fled homophobia and established herself as a nightclub personality in Paris.

Although peppered with Latin references, the instantly recognizable song is flawless French pop music.

Complete lyrics translations and analysis for Joe Le Taxi

French Hits of the New Millennium

Je veux

Zaz, 2010

Je veux (“I want”) is a top-tapper that rails against consumerism. All Zaz really wants is “love, joy, and happiness” (Je veux d’l’amour, d’la joie, de la bonne humeur).

Opening with references to luxury brands and national landmarks, this is another fantastic song to translate or merely add to your party playlist.

Complete lyrics translation and analysis for Je Veux

À Tout Jamais (2022)

Mylène Farmer

Mylène Farmer could have easily starred in our section of French hits from 1980-2000.

Born in Canada but raised in France, the impossible to pigeonhole Mylène Farmer has churned out 21 French number ones since bursting onto the scene in the 80s. It’s a record for any French artist.

À tout jamais (“Forever”) is from her latest album, L’Emprise. Happily, for fans of the avant-garde songstress, she remains as unconventional as ever.

It’s a song about demons entering her soul, a probable metaphor but it’s hard to be sure with Mylène. Our lyrical analysis can help make sense of it all!

Complete lyrics translation and analysis for A Tout Jamais

Bonne journée

Stromae, 2022

If you want to practice one always well-received French phrase, you might appreciate Bonne journée (“Have a good day”) by Belgian rapper Stromae.

The chilled beats belie lyrics dripping with sarcasm when he talks of having a good day. Packed with idioms — including the unforgettable line le caca est parfait, literally “the poop is perfect” — this is an excellent song to lift spirits and French skills to another level.

Stromae is a good starting point if you want a flavor of popular music in France today. We’ve deconstructed some of his biggest hits: Papaoutai, Alors On Danse, La Solassitude, Fils de Joie, Formidable, Santé, L’enfer, and Mon Amour.

Complete lyrics translation and analysis for Bonne journée

Bruxelles Je T’aime

Angèle, 2021

Belgium has been a Europop factory recently. And Brussels native Angèle is vying with Stromae for the crown of French pop music.

Casting shade on its grey and dull image, Bruxelles Je T’aime (“Brussels, I love you”) lauds the Belgian (and European Union) capital where les gens feront la fête (people will party).

Like several Angèle songs, political messages are worked into the lyrics. These hope that the Flemish and French-speaking sides of Belgium can remain united. A rare line in Flemish underlines the sentiment.

Angèle regularly tops Belgian and French charts, and we’ve covered another Angèle hit with a social message you’ll want to listen to, the #MeToo-themed Balance Ton Quoi.

Complete lyrics translation and analysis for Bruxelles Je T’aime

Parle à ta tête

Indila, 2019

Parle à ta tête is a fun song and video by Indila that shines a light on contemporary vocabulary, with loanwords like “burnout” and institutions like “Pole Emploi” (employment agency) among the modern references.

Extolling the virtues of being yourself and not letting your fears hold you back, this track from 2018 marked her comeback after taking a break for several years.

We’ve written about several other Indila singles. Among them are Dernière Danse (Last Dance), Love Story, S.O.S, Ainsi Bas La Vida, and Tourner Dans Le Vide (Spinning in the void/emptiness).

Complete lyrics translation and analysis for Parle à ta tête

We’re reached the end of our selection of French hits you’ll love. Hopefully, this guide has coughed up a few songs to listen to. Along with some helpful language insights so you can sing along without missing a beat. Enjoy!

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Dan Forsythe

A politics and history graduate with a technical writing background and based in France, Dan writes amazing articles for all things French. An insatiable traveler, Dan has crisscrossed France, Europe, and beyond. When he’s not hiking or falling down historical rabbit holes, Dan sips tea and writes technical pieces or blog posts about travel, history, and life in his adopted home.

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