While music’s a worldwide thing (obviously, or else this feature would be really short lived), the acceptance of foreign languages isn’t.
Here in the UK we don’t really care to venture into the realms of different tongues, but across the globe, it’s a far more flexible situation, with home grown artists quite happily singing in English, hoping to catch the ear of some big, international record company.
That’s not the case in France though, with the protection of the French language being defended even in media law.
French media policy means that most home-grown talent sticks to French, as a quota of the content has to be in French and the world’s biggest artists usually take up the remaining slots. And why the heck not, it’s their language and if they want to protect it then all power to them. Yet still, we’ve found a nice easy ramp into the world of French music and found a collection of singers and bands that do their music in English.
The first of those is Phoenix, who bear more than a little similarity to British indie bands such as Two Door Cinema Club and Friendly Fires. It’s even to the point where the four piece from Versailles seem to have ditched France all together and completely switched their focus over to America and the U.K.
High tempo, guitar centric, cheerily whimsical and heavily influenced by The Strokes, Phoenix are very much in line with the indie fair that’s served so well over here.
They’ve had some great success though, especially on a critical level, as the band managed to scoop the 2010 Grammy for Best Alternative Music Album and contributed to the soundtrack for the Sofia Coppola film Somewhere. That the bands lead singer Thomas Mars is her husband is merely a coincidence.
While they haven’t released any new content in a little while, although they have a new album in the works, the award winning quartet are a nicely familiar taste from overseas.
Next up we have Ayo. Coming from Nigerian and German routes, the singer/songwriter has had massive success with her three albums so far, winning praise from not only French audiences, but acclaim from all over Europe.
She even picked up the illustrious EBBA award back in 2008 following the release of her second album Gravity At Last and even became a UNICEF patron because of the album’s success.
Even before then she was gathering buzz from outside areas, with her US tour including performances on big time chat shows along the way.
Ayo’s signature is her voice, soaring yet delicate and filled with feeling and goes along perfectly with her own brand of soul infused pop, like a slightly funkier Alicia Keys. Highly emotional, but effortlessly cool, Ayo really is a joy to listen too.
Another EBBA winner is our next entrant. Winning a trophy in 2009, AaRON (standing for Artificial Animals Riding On Neverland), are the brain child of lyricist Simon Buret and composer Olivier Coursier and are a truly intriguing bunch.
Seeing to alternate between English and beautifully poetic French lyrics, AaRON are gorgeously melancholic and intimate, with an almost windswept and classical feeling, basing around the rotating central piano or electronic base.
With two albums released and pan-European tour under their belts, AaRON have a strong following and if you’re in the mood for a slow, melodic ride with the duo, you might end up amongst them.
Last up is someone you might just be familiar with, M83. Despite sounding more like a road than a group (although they actually take their name from the name of a galaxy), they are one of the electronic scenes hottest artists, hoping to follow in the footsteps of Daft Punk and take over electronica.
M83 are a very different beast from their robot masked compatriots though, far more concerned with melody and far, far lighter in tone.
Having come together back in 2001, the group have so far released six albums, although they have only been met with marginal success commercially. On the quiet though, M83 have been attracting influential followers and have toured with Kings of Leon, The Killers and Depeche Mode over the last few years.
Their latest album, will hopefully gather them far more success, as it is an electronic masterpiece. It’s mix of synths, reverb, swooping strings, glorious rock influences and surprisingly light vocal makes Hurry Up, We’re Dreaming an absolute two disc marvel.
While French music may be mainly insular and self-concerned, there are treasures to be found by diving in there beyond those old Edith Piaf records and Daft Punk tearing house music a new whole.
FemaleFirst Cameron Smith