French Language Blog

Top 5 Francophone Albums Posted by on Apr 6, 2015 in Music

Listening to music is a great way to learn another language. Why? It is easier to memorize melodies and lyrics together than to just memorize sentences. Something in my brain is triggered when I hear music and, although I wouldn’t say that I have a great memory, I remember every note and lyric of the songs I love.

Also, it’s hard not to sing along with the music you love, which further helps with memorization and even pronunciation. When listening to music, you are forced to pronounce words according to the rhythm of the song — it’s not perfect, but oftentimes it’s better than what you could do without this musical aid.

Finally, because music is a cultural product you can learn a lot about current cultural and linguistic trends through listening to songs. I remember that, during my first French class while studying in Paris, we would take current French pop and rap songs apart piece-by-piece to study the argot and idioms included in the lyrics. It was a great tool for me and my fellow students and helped us learn the kind of French that was often spoken by people our age in the streets of Paris.

Here is my favorite French-language albums. Many of the musicians included here are not French, but come from a variety of French-speaking countries. These albums are not the most current, nor are they necessarily the most popular; they are just the albums that I turn to again and again and that have provided me musical pleasure for years. They are listed in no particular order.

1. Carla Bruni — Quelqu’un m’a dit (2003)

Yes, Carla Bruni is the former First Lady of France and is married to Nicholas Sarkozy. She was also a famous supermodel in the 90s. But she is a truly gifted artist. This is one of my favorite albums of all time, particularly because of Bruni’s talents as a lyricist and her soft melodic voice that conveys an almost frightening power. “Raphaël” is one of the best songs on the album.

2. Tiken Jah Fakoly — Coup de gueule (2004)

Tiken Jah Fakoly is an Ivorian reggae artist and activist who has said that he sings to “wake up consciences.” “Plus rien ne m’etonne” is one of my favorites on this album, but this is one of those albums where you just can’t skip ahead because every single song grabs you and pulls you in. If you have a chance to see Fakoly in concert, take it — he has a massive stage presence and is the best performer I’ve ever seen live. Fakoly is also very prolific — check out Le Caméléon (2008) and Dernier Appel (2014).

3. Stacey Kent — Raconte-moi (2010)

Stacey Kent is an American jazz singer and most of her other albums are in English. But this album is not to be missed — it’s pure, smooth jazz delivered in perfect French. Kent has been living in France for years and received l’Ordre des Arts et des Lettres by the French government in 2009.

4. Stromae — Racine Carrée (2013)

Stromae is a Belgian artist who has received an enormous amount of international attention these past several years. However, he is still flying underneath the radar in the United States. I got the chance to see Stromae in New York last year and his performance was powerful and theatrical. “Papaoutai” has been the big hit, but my favorite is “Tous les mêmes.” Check out the music video, too — it’s simply amazing. Check out Josh’s post on Stromae’s most recent release here!

5. Rachid Taha, Khaled, Faudel — 1,2,3 Soleils (1998)

This is a live album recorded during a unique concert with three of the most famous Algerian raï musicians. This album is a classic and one of the albums I find great comfort listening to year after year. Raï is a kind of traditional Algerian folk music that often deals with social issues. I may be cheating a bit on this one because there is a lot of Arabic on this album as well as French, but it’s really not to be missed. Enjoy!

What are some of your favorite French-language albums that you would add to this list?


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About the Author: Elizabeth Schmermund

Bonjour tout le monde! I'm a freelance writer, doctoral student, mom, and Francophile. I'm excited to share some of my experiences living in France, as well as the cultural nuances that I've learned being married to a Frenchman, with all of you. To find out more about me, feel free to check out my website at A la prochaine!