You could listen to French music and songs (whether that is rap, pop albums, or classical music) to help you practice your French language skills. It doesn't matter if you listen to an album that was recently released or to songs that have passed the test of time and continue alive after many years.

If you become familiar with French music and learn to sing along with the lyrics of a song, you won't only develop a great voice, but you'll also work on your pronunciation skills and knowledge of vocabulary. If you start to love French music you will have an advantage that other students in your French class won't have!

Continue reading if you want to learn about popular French musicians, the ones that made history, and the ones that continue to make history today.

Broadway billboard of Les Miserables
Learn about French musicals like Les Miserables. Photo by Samuel Regan-Asante on Unsplash
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French musicians that made history

Below you will find a list of some of the musicians that made history in France and the world with their talents as composers, lyrics, style, voice, and more.

  1. Jean-Philippe Rameau - was born in 1683 and was one of the greatest French opera composers and music theorists. The music of Jean-Philippe Rameau enriched the late Baroque period with his harpsichord pieces. His father hoped for him to pursue a career in law, but Rameau wasn’t academically inclined, which is why he decided to travel to Italy to study music.
  2. Edith Piaf - was born in 1915 and she is France’s sweetheart and a legendary singer and actor. Edith Piaf was also known as the “Little Sparrow” for her iconic voice and she is best remembered for her iconic Grammy Hall of Fame and her song (chanson) La Vie en Rose. Edith Piaf was raised in her grandmother's brothel and she began her career as a singer by singing in the streets.
  3. Eve Curie - was born in 1904 and she had a career as a writer, journalist, songwriter, and pianist. If her last name sounds familiar is because she was the daughter of the famous scientists Marie and Pierre Curie. She was the only one in the Curie family who didn't pursue a career in science and was, in fact, famous for her activism and charity work.
  4. Jean-Baptiste Lully - was born in 1632 and he started his career in music as a violinist in Lous XIV's band and then evolved to pursue his dream to compose for the opera. He also invented the French overture which is a musical form widely used in the Baroque period.
  5. Josquin des Prez - was one of the most influential Renaissance composers. He is mostly known for his motets, masses, and his use of the chanson.

The list of French musicians that made history can go on forever. Depending on each genre, there are probably hundreds of songwriters, producers, singers, artists, and musical geniuses.

We recommend anyone interested in improving their French skills to pay attention to French music, whether that is pop, hip hop, rap, rock, electronica, pop alternative, country, or another type of music. If you want to learn more about the language learn about the differences between French and English.

Influences of French music

Nowadays it is really hard to point out an exact influence or the originality of something. The world has become so globalized that we have people from different places singing in different languages and appealing to international crowds.

That is the wonder of the globalized world. Before things didn't travel as fast and we weren't as connected as we are now. This is why, today, we get to enjoy an album, a band, a hit, or the beautiful lyrics and albums of international artists.

Picture of the front view of the Moulin Rouge
When learning about French music people usually start with the history, in France that includes learning about the Moulin Rouge and cabaret. Photo by Rahul Chowdhury on Unsplash

French music refers to any musical production that was developed by a French artist or that was made in France. Music in France has a long trajectory and a fascinating history that includes genres like classical, opera, cabaret, and contemporary. To learn more read the introduction to French Language and the Arts.

Classical music and classical symphony refer to music that was composed between 1750 and 1830 during the post-Baroque and pre-Romantic periods. French classical music is renowned around the world because of its beauty and the impact it had on the rest of the world.

Many famous composers left a mark in this world and are still remembered by the masses and taught in prestigious music schools. Composers like Pérotin, Machaut, Josquin, Roussel, Milhaud, Poulenc, and Messiaen made history and are remembered after all of this time.

On the other hand, French opera is one of Europe's most important traditions and France was home to the amazing and renowned work of opera composers like Rameau, Berlioz, Gounod, Bizet, Massenet, Debussy, Ravel, Poulenc, and Messiaen. Keep in mind that many foreign composers also contributed to the historic evolution of opera in France.

Amongst the popular French music, some genres had a boom during the 19th century like cabaret, cancan, musette, chanson (Edith Piaf), and yeye. A cabaret is a form of French spectacle where the audience is usually sitting at dining tables and the show normally has a master of ceremonies.

The first cabaret was opened in 1881 in the neighborhood called Montmartre in Paris and it was called Le Chat Noir (The Black Cat). The Moulin Rouge, which was built in 1889, is famous for the large red windmill on its roof and for having legendary cabaret performances.

Keep learning about the French language with the French pronunciation of Famous Global Brands.

Contemporary French music

Two singers in a stage
Contemporary music is filled with hit songs from renowned artists. Photo by Karsten Winegeart on Unsplash

Contemporary French music includes genres like jazz, pop, rock, metal, electronic, dance, disco, and hip-hop. All of these genres have a huge international influence but they also have a historic French influence.

If France wouldn't have had the musical trajectory it had, then producers and songwriters wouldn't be doing the work they do today because they wouldn't have inspiration from where to draw their creativity from.

Top musicians like the pop singer Mylène Farmer, the rock star Johnny Hallyday, the pioneer of electronic music Jean-Michel Jarre, or the famous group Daft Punk wouldn't exist today.

Famous French singers and musicians

Now that you know a little bit more about the history of French music, you can carry on learning about the artists who are currently popular in France and the world. Below you will find a list of five French musicians who are well-known and recognized internationally for their musical talents.

A concert of electronic music
David Guetta has released 7 studio albums and all have done more than well in the Billboard list. Photo by David Švihovec on Unsplash
  1. DJ Snake - is a popular record producer and DJ who was born in Paris, France. In 2019, he was ranked as the 16th best DJ on DJ Magazine's Top 100 DJs list. One of his most famous songs is the English-Spanish song titled Taki Taki, and it won several awards including BMI Latin Awards. Over the years, Snake has won many prestigious awards, such as Billboard Music Awards and an MTV Video Music Award.
  2. David Guetta - is a French songwriter, record producer, and DJ. During the 2000s and over the years, Guetta has become one of the most famous DJs in the world; in 2011 and 2020, he was voted the best DJ in a poll conducted by DJ Magazine. He has won several prestigious awards including two Grammys.
  3. Carla Bruni - is an Italian-French fashion model and singer-songwriter. She had a career as a singer in Paris, France when she met and then married the ex-president of France, Nicolas Sarkozy. Since then she's gained international recognition for her political activities, philanthropy, and charity work. She established the Carla Bruni-Sarkozy Foundation in 2009 which is a foundation that helps promote access to knowledge for all.
  4. Manu Chao - is a Latin Grammy-winning artist who was born to Spanish parents in Paris and is one of the pioneers of Latin alternative rock. His French rock band or group called Mano Negra produced songs and hits in English, Spanish, and Arabic. During his career as a solo artist, he gained international recognition for his songs Clandestino and Me Gustas Tu.
  5. Claire Pommet - she is a popular French folk-rock singer who is better known in France as Pomme. As a singer, she deals mostly with the theme of love and is most noted for her successful debut album, À peu près, and the songs De là-Haut and Pauline. People enjoy both her themes and lyrics.

If you are not as interested in learning about French music, you can always improve your language skills in other ways. For instance, you can check out our article about 10 interesting French quotes by artists that you should learn.

Keep in mind that all of these artists and singers have a different style and each one aligns with one genre. If you are interested in learning about a specific genre, like hip hop, pop, rock, country, jazz, or a specific group or band, you can carry on researching the topic.

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