Playlist: 15 French Love Songs
French is known as the language of love. It is easy to understand why after listening to the poetic lyrics of these songs. Whether singing about romance, passion, longing, desire or heartache, these crooners and chanteuses exude an air of sultriness and sincerity. This playlist spans many eras of French music that range from cabaret songs of the 40s, to the golden age of Chanson Française in the 50s to 60s, to contemporary hits of today.
1. Ces Petits Riens (Those Little Things) – Serge Gainsbourg & Alain Goraguer
Serge Gainsbourg is considered one of the most popular and provocative singer-songwriters in French music. “Ces Petits Riens” is told from the perspective of a scorned man who is fed up with his cruel lover.
2. Zou Bisou Bisou (Oh Kiss Kiss) – Gillian Hills & Jean Bourchety
Made popular again by the television show, Mad Men, “Zou Bisou Bisou” is a playful song about a couple sneaking off to steal sweet summer kisses.
3. C’est Si Bon (It’s so Good) – Yves Montand
This song is a French standard covered by many jazz musicians that include Louis Armstrong, Angèle Durand, Eartha Kitt, and Barbara Streisand. This popular version is sung by Yves Montard, a beloved French-Italian actor and crooner.
“Love without philosophizing is like having a quick coffee.” –Serge Gainsbourg
4. Je Veux (I Want) – Zaz
Isabelle Geffroy, better known as Zaz, is a contemporary singer-songwriter who is known for her jazzy, bluesy, soulful style. “Je Veux,” her exuberant breakout hit, is about living life fully through joy and love, not material things.
5. Moi Je Joue (Me, I Play) – Brigitte Bardot & Alain Goraguer
Brigitte Bardot is an actress, model, and singer who is considered one of the first foreign-language stars to attain international stardom. Her signature blond bombshell look made her one of the biggest sex symbols in the 50s and 60s. This flirtatious song warns how she is a lot to handle.
6. Mens Moi (Lie to Me) – Camélia Jordana
Camélia Jordana is a a French pop singer of Algerian descent who received her big break after being cast in the 2009 music reality show Nouvelle Star. “Mens Moi” describes the excitement when first falling in love.
7. Toxic – Yael Naim
Yael Naim was born in Paris in 1978 to Jewish and Tunisian parents. Although originally sung by Britney Spears, Naim’s version of “Toxic” is a more demure and sophisticated interpretation of the song.
“Do you have to have a reason for loving?” –Brigitte Bardot
8. Comment Te Dire Adieu (It Hurts to Say Goodbye) – Françoise Hardy
Françoise Hardy is an iconic pop and fashion icon who rose to stardom in the early 1960s. “Comment Te Dire Adieu,” one of Hardy’s most successful hits, is about a woman asking her lover to explain why he is leaving her.
9. Beautiful Tango – Hindi Zahra
Hindi Zahra is a French-Moroccan singer-songwriter who sings mostly in English with a soulful voice and catchy rhythmic tempos.
10. Quand Je Marche (When I Walk) – Camille
Camille was originally one of the singers for the acclaimed French bossa-nova cover band, Nouvelle Vague. She pursued a solo career in 2002 and elevated her status to pop chanteuse. This heartfelt song is about coping with the end of a relationship.
11. Deux (Two) – Keren Ann
Keren Ann Zeidel is a neo-folk musician with roots in Paris, Tel Avis, and New York. “Deux” is about a couple trying to let go of pain they’ve caused each other.
12. Ne Me Quitte Pas (Don’t Leave Me) – Jacques Brel
Jacques Brel is a Belgian born singer who composed and performed literate, thoughtful, and theatrical songs from the 50s through the 70s. “Ne Me Quitte Pas” is a song about desperation and heartache that was written after Brel’s mistress, Suzanne Gabriello, threw him out of her life
“I want to make people cry even when they don’t understand my words.” –Edith Piaf
13. Aimé (Loved) – Loane
Loane is a singer and pianist who is influenced by electronica, folk, and pop. In “Aimé,” Loane expresses her love and longing on a crush who does not return her feelings.
14. La Vie En Rose (Life in Pink) – Edith Piaf
Lovingly nicknamed “the Sparrow,” Edith Piaf is regarded as France’s most legendary international singer. She epitomizes the classic chansonnier with a style that is emotional and mournful. Her signature song “La Vie en Rose” is about being in love and seeing life through rose-colored glasses.
15. La Mer (Beyond the Sea) – Charles Trenet
Charles Trenet is famous for his recordings from the late 1930s through the 1950s. He is characterized for writing songs that are warm, personal, and poetic. His chanson “La Mer” was recorded in 1946, and was supposedly written in 10 minutes on toilet paper while he was traveling on the train along the Mediterranean coast. The nostalgic song is about reuniting with a loved one and has been covered by many artists, most notably the English version by Bobby Darin.
Lara was instilled with the travel bug at an early age and has visited over 25 countries. Her mother’s job as a flight attendant enabled a childhood of discovering the world. She recently relocated to Seoul, South Korea, where she hopes to explore much of Asia for the next few years. In addition to being the founding editor of En Route Traveler, Lara also works as a freelance graphic designer. In her spare time, she contributes as a Local Expert to AFAR, is an ambassador for FIG Clothing, enjoys vegetarian cuisine, instructs Zumba, practices yoga, dabbles in photography and, of course, travels as much as possible.
What’s you’re favorite French love song? Share your recommendations below!