The French had its fair share of pop icons in the 1960s, and while we can’t turn back the hands of time, there are ways of fascinating performers sprouting up in the present, to the point that one may wonder whether a revival of great French music is on the horizon. Legendary romantic music composers, cabarets, and folk artists have all come from France. There are plenty of singers who have topped various music charts over the years, but the list doesn’t stop there. Whether you’re a Francophile, a Francophone, or simply looking for some new music, here’s our list of Top 10 Female French Singers to add to your playlist.
#1. Edith Piaf
She is a well-known French singer, although Edith Piaf’s iconic Parisian love ballads require no introduction, most people are shocked to discover the singer’s backstory. Edith Piaf began her career as a street musician in the 20th arrondissement of Paris, where she was born and reared. She was requested to perform in her first cabaret when she was in her early twenties, and her ability was soon recognized. With singles like “la vie en rose,” Edith Piaf swiftly climbed to international stardom. She is still remembered as France’s national singer, decades after her death.
|African-American Film Critics Association|
|Alliance of Women Film Journalists|
|Boston Society of Film Critics Awards|
|British Academy Film Awards|
|Czech Lion Awards|
|European Film Awards|
|Gold Derby Awards|
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Dalida was a famous pop singer and actress who was born in Cairo to Italian parents. Dalida went to Paris after growing up in Cairo, where her musical abilities were soon recognized. She also opened for Charles Aznavour at the Olympia performance theatre barely two years after arriving in Paris. Dalida’s career took off from there. She recorded hundreds of songs in French and Italian throughout the years, many of which become classics. On our Montmartre tour, you may view the singer’s old house as well as a bronze bust of her.
|Golden Butterfly Awards|
|Goldene Europa Awards|
|Radio Monte Carlo Awards|
|French Academy Awards|
|French Summer Carnaval Awards|
|Golden Lion Awards|
|L’Académie du Disque Français Awards|
#3. Vanessa Paradis
Vanessa Paradis is a singer, actress, and model who is one of the most well-known on our list of the top 10 French female singers. Her singing career began at an early age, with her hit track “Joe le Taxi” catapulting her to prominence at the age of fourteen. Paradis was already a well-known singer by her late teens, and her acting and modelling careers were on the rise. Since 1991, she has been one of the faces and muses of the Chanel design company! Her daughter Lily-Rose Depp (with ex-husband Johnny Depp) is now a famous supermodel and the face of Chanel.
|Victoires de la Musique|
|Prix Romy Schneider|
|NRJ Music Awards|
|Globe de Cristal Awards|
|Legion of Honour|
|Vancouver Film Critics Circle|
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#4. Véronique Sanson
Véronique Sanson is one of the lesser-known French female artists in our top ten list, despite being an award-winning singer-songwriter and one of France’s most successful female vocalists. Nonetheless, she is deserving of a seat. Sanson, who was born in Boulogne-Billaincourt, just outside of Paris, began her musical career at a young age, penning and composing her first songs at the age of thirteen. Her career took off in the early 1970s with the publication of her smash pop-rock album “Amoureuse,” which also marked the end of the yé-yé craze.
#5. Cléa Vincent
Cléa Vincent (who rose to prominence thanks to her two debut EPs, Non mais Oui 1/2 and Non mais Oui 2/2) has more to offer than her D.I.Y. Pop and thought-provoking lyrics. Her solo first album, Retiens mon désir, is undoubtedly worthy of your attention. She is also renowned in France as a member of the project Garçons alongside Carmen Maria Vega and Zaza Fournier and her widely legendary events exploring different decades of music. Cléa Vincent is certainly one to keep an eye on, with nostalgic synthesizers and songs evocative of the 1970s that France Gall would be proud of, as seen by her upcoming tour dates in Russia and Central America.
Fishbach was one of the highlights of last year’s Transmusicales, and her landmark album, ta merci (Moodod, Grand Blanc), signed to the Parisian indie record company Entreprise, has brought France to its knees. Fishbach, a.k.a. Flora Fischbach, is evanescent, lunar, sensuous, but also astonishingly dark and dramatic, and she instantly bewitches all the audiences she plays for. Her mesmerizing concerts have gotten a lot of press in France, and they are well worth the journey. “The bottle doesn’t matter as long as you are drunk,” Alfred de Musset famously stated. That may be true, but Fishbach has one hell of a bottle to make you buzzed.
|African-American Film Critics Association (AAFCA)|
|Black Reel Awards|
|Bruin Film Society Awards|
|Image Awards (NAACP)|
|Latino Entertainment Journalists Association Film Awards|
|Online Association of Female Film Critics|
|Online Film & Television Association|
|Phoenix Critics Circle|
#7. Michelle Blades
Michelle Blades was born in Panama, not France. She was born and raised in Miami before moving to Arizona and falling in love with the local indie culture. She seemed to be lost somewhere between punk and folk experimental efforts and bedroom music, adolescent fantasies and teenage passion, four albums later. Michelle tells Villa Schweppes about her latest album Polylust, which she describes as a compilation of prototype songs: “I don’t want to be Christine and the Queens; I want to be Brian Eno.” Michelle Blades may not have managed to take a piece of the desert’s wildness with Polylust, her nocturnal and arid fuck off to pop music, but she did manage to steal a bit of the desert’s wilderness.
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Isabelle Geffroy, better known by her stage name Zaz, is a member of the younger generation of French musicians that are working to alter the country’s music landscape. Zaz began as a busker in the Montmartre neighbourhood of Paris and has now become well-known throughout France and Europe. Her top single, “Je veux,” was released in 2010 and was an instant international smash. This French singer and songwriter creates new musical tones that are full of passion by combining soul, acoustic, French classical genres, and gypsy jazz. Her music has topped the charts not just in France, but also in Belgium and Germany, with a fan following that stretches from China to North America.
#9. Coeur de Pirate
Béatrice Martin, better known by her stage name Coeur de Pirate(which translates as Pirate Heart), is a francophone Canadian singer, composer, and pianist. She is recognized for “promoting la chanson française to a whole new generation of Quebec youngsters” because the majority of her songs are in French. Her debut album, headed by the blockbuster hit single “Comme des Enfants,” reached the top five in France in 2009. Coeur de Pirate is generally described as indie-pop since it has a piano, keyboard, and acoustic components.
#10. Christine and the Queens
Hélose Letissier is a Nantes-based French singer and songwriter. Christine and the Queens is her stage name, and she creates a diverse mix of music, performance, art films, drawings, and photographs. Letissier was born in Lyon and raised in Lyon, Paris, and London. Her desire to collaborate with local drag queen musicians was sparked by her visit to the British capital. They began accompanying her during her early gigs and were known as the “Queens,” her backing band. She describes her music as “freakpop,” and she self-released her debut EP, Miséricorde.