French musicians have become regular creators of international trendy music; the French-heavy line up at Coachella this past spring serves as proof. Though a lot of these artists fit into the French tendency towards smooth electro-pop, the rap and Afropop musicians are also having a moment.
If your music library is (still!) only Edith Piaf and Serge Gainsbourg, or you’re looking for French artists not on the “timeless” French café playlist, these seven French musicians topping the 2019 charts are for you.
1. Aya Nakamura
Nakamura rose in popularity after her song “Djadja” from her chart-topping album, Nakamura, became the 2018 French summer anthem. Her verses are incredibly fluid as she bends the French language to make it work for her lyrics. Her lines also speak to the flow and vernacular of the Parisian suburb she grew up in, Aulnay-sous-bois, after immigrating from Mali where she was born. Her energetic, empowering Afropop beats like “La Dot” and “Copines” are definitely worth a listen.
Angèle is actually Belgian but sings groovy electro-pop music in French, so we’re including her. Her music is fun and her youthful energy definitely comes through. Fairly new to the scene, she started getting attention in 2017 with the single “La loi de Murphy” off her first album Brol and has only gotten more popular. Her single “Tout Oublier” was top of the charts for nine weeks, beating Stromae’s record for a Belgian artist. She’s also a pretty cool feminist, releasing her hit “Balance ton quoi” (meaning “denounce your [blank]”) in response to the #balencetonporc movement in France. We recommend the songs “Tout Oublier” and “Flou.”
3. Polo & Pan
This synth electro duo met up in 2012 and has been creating waves in the electronic music world ever since. Their influence is diverse and their style fluid — raw elements of a guitar come through overlapped and remixed with percussion over an almost hypnotic beat. The pair will be embarking on their North America tour this fall, stopping in almost all major cities. Their latest album is Caravelle. We love “Canopée” and “Plage isolée” as tracks to jam to.
French Kiwi Juice, aka FKJ, is known as one of Paris’s electronic music DJs that started the subgenre of a more mellowed French house. The majority of the time his beats are overlaid with English lyrics or features by English-speaking artists, like Masego, as on the track “Tadow.” His international audience is continuously growing as there seems to be a global appreciation for his chill, organic, and yet engaging beats. His tour of live shows will be passing through parts of North America in August so give him a listen and grab a ticket. He just released a single in April with Col3trane, “Perfect Timing.”
5. Clara Luciani
The French pop-star from the outskirts of Marseille has recently broken out on her own with her first solo album in 2018, “Sainte-Victoire.” This artist’s moody, sometimes dark pop is reminiscent of female rock icons like Nico paired with a touch of a catchy disco beat. We recommend “Eddy” and “La Grenade” as a solid introduction to Luciani’s work.
Paris-based musician Lomepal has been perfecting his art since 2011. He debuted with rap and is now transitioning to singing more of his verses and choruses since his album FLIP. His style is more mellow, low-fi beats mixed with a deep bass that deepens the sound, and sometimes a stark piano solo breaks this style to take the track in a whole new direction. The duality in his music is engaging and creates a variety listeners love. His latest album, Jeanine, released in 2018, produced the hit “Trop Beau,” but his 2017 song “Danse” is still a classic.
The brother duo just released their new album of cloud rap Deux frères earlier this year and a new single this July. Their verses are introspective and, at times, confessional, which is why they’ve garnered a mysterious media presence — they never do interviews. The pair was also the first group to film a music video for their song “Au DD” atop the Eiffel Tower, skyrocketing their YouTube following. Other songs to check out are “Mowgli II” and “Deux Frères.”