French pop music offers up songs for every mood. If you want dark and brooding, or abstract and thoughtful, there are depths to be plumbed. But today let’s talk about cheery and tuneful—the kind of songs that make you want to skip along the banks of the Seine, or at least smile, no matter what.
You could do no better than go find the suggested tunes that accompany these on Spotify, where many other catchy treasures await your discovery. Go forth, listen, enjoy and dance.
“Les Champs-Elysées,” Joe Dassin
This mega-cheery song convinces you you’re trotting down the Avenue des Champs-Elysées, about to meet a tantalizing stranger and spend the night drunk on guitar music while falling in love.
“Briller comme des étoiles,” The Pirouettes
The Pirouettes is a two-person band, one man and one woman, which makes for a unique vocal harmony, that combines phenomenally with their catchy, lightly percussive rhythms. This particular song is about two musicians having confidence in themselves and their performance, and it’s slow but a head-bobber.
“La ballade des gens heureux,” Gerard Lenorman
– Lenorman’s 1975 song is so gently cheerful, I nearly took it for a children’s song (aren’t those kids singing the chorus?). It was a big hit in Europe when it came out, and will definitely occasion much toe-tapping (if not outright dancing).
“Dans le temps,” Petula Clark
While not technically a French song, it’s a song in French: Petula Clark’s Franco-cover of her own 1964 hit “Downtown.” It’s lovely and bizarre to hear the song in French, especially once you realize that the original cheery story has been changed to something darker and sadder (lost love in, presumably, Paris). Yet it’s still as bouncy and jingly as the original, a contrast to the words that’s somehow perfect.
“Le Patineur,” Julien Clerc
This song is slightly melancholic, while still lighthearted and pleasing to the ear. It tells the surreal story of someone remembering seeing an ice skater on a frozen lake in the middle of July, a memory the narrator has always kept. My favorite lyric is “C’était un échassier bizarre / il ne sort pas de ma mémoire” (he was a weird bird, and he doesn’t leave my memory). And indeed the song sticks with the listener too.