71 Most famous French songs of France of all time: That everyone knows

Listen to the music of France and learn about some of the most iconic famous French songs of France throughout the decades. True French classics instantly recognizable and loved.

Famous French: two accordion players wearing horse head masks
Famous French: two accordion players wearing horse head masks

9 Famous French songs from the 1980s

In the 1980s, French rock branched into multiple styles: pop punk,  synthpop and punk rock were among some popular styles in this era. Les Rita Mitsouko became very popular in France and throughout Europe with their unique blending of punk, new wave, dance and cabaret elements.

“Il jouait du piano debout” by France Gall (1980) – “He was playing the piano standing up”

“Il jouait du piano debout” was originally written and performed by French singer Michel Berger. France Gall recorded her version in 1980. The song pays tribute to the unique way American legend Jerry Lee Lewis played his piano standing up. 

“Résiste by France Gall (1981) – “Resist”

If you want to get a room full of French people to stand up and start singing, then play this song. 

The song is a call to action that tells the listener to resist the status quo, not to blame the political system but to change the world by changing themselves. 

“les lacs du connemara” by Michel Sardou (1981) – “The lakes of Connermara”

The Lakes of Connemara are an area located in the west of Ireland on the Atlantic coast. So it should come as no surprise to you that this French song is about Ireland. 

This song isn’t famous because it’s played on the French radio or in French movies. It’s mainly played at parties, weddings, and events to signal the end of the night or even the end of an era, such as a graduation ceremony. Similar in spirit to how Auld Lang Syne is sung on New Year’s Eve or how people request Frank Sinatra’s “My Way” for funerals. It’s also good for French karaoke. 

“Tous les cris les S.O.S.”by Daniel Balavoine(1981) –  “All the S.O.S. cries”

The lyrics of this song are a call to arms, urging people to fight against injustice and oppression. The song’s memorable chorus, “Tous les cris les S.O.S., tous les cris d’amour” (All the cries for help, all the cries of love),   continues to resonate with audiences today.

“l’aventurier” by Indochine (1982) – “The adventurer”

French pop rock and new wave band based their song “L’aventurier” on a series of French adventure books by Belgian novelist Henri Vernes.

Bob Moranes adventures spanned more than fifty years, and Indochine managed to write a song about that universe. 

Whenever this song gets played at a house party or out in public, people go crazy. You’ve been warned. 

This is one of my favourite French songs from the ’80s. 

“Cendrillon” by Téléphone (1982) – “Cinderella”

Cendrillon is about the distortion of a young girls’ utopian dreams compared to her adult reality in three stages.

She was filled with hopeful dreams at 20, motherhood and abandonment by her husband in her 30s, and a drug addict and prostitute in her 40s. Then overdose and dies.

“Dès que le vent soufflera” by Renaud (1983) – “When the wind blows”

French singer Renaud is another household name in France. His song “Dès que le vent soufflera” was inspired while sailing from the French Antilles back to France with his wife and daughter.

The song is about the life of a sailor and the ocean. The singer talks about how the sea takes men. How he leaves behind the people who told him to be careful because the sea was disgusting and full of fish having sex. – As soon as the wind blows, he’ll go back.

Marcia Baïla” by Les Rita Mitsouko

A song about dancing and having a good time: this song is dedicated to the Argentine dancer and choreographer Marcia Moretto, who was part of the band’s tours before she died from breast cancer in 1983.

The song was a big hit in France and abroad and can be considered one of the band’s signature songs. The lyrics describe a wild party scene, with the singer encouraging the listeners to join and dance to the music.

Les Rita Mitsouko is a French pop rock band that was formed in 1979. The band was made up of Fred Chichin and Catherine Ringer, and was known for its eclectic and eclectic mix of musical styles, including punk, new wave, and electronic music.

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“Nuit de folie” by Début de Soirée (1984) – “Night of madness”

The lyrics of “Nuit de folie” describe a wild and crazy night out, encouraging you to let loose and have a good time.

“Début de Soirée,” once referred to as the “French equivalent of Modern Talking, was a French pop duo. Their hit song “Nuit de folie” was released in 1984 as a B-side but went unnoticed. It wasn’t until the duo signed with Sony that the song took off around 1986, ever since it’s been considered a classic French pop song. 

The song has been covered by numerous bands ever since. The English versions became more successful than the French version, such as the 1988 cover by German singer Patty Ryan’s song “You’re My Love, You’re My Life.”

But my favourite is the one by the German band Modern talking that remixed Patty’s cover into You’re my heart; you’re my soul.” You be the judge; listen to both versions below. 

“Mistral gagnant” by Renaud (1984) – “The winning Mistral”

This classic song was initially released by Renaud Séchan, who sings to his daughter Lolita about his childhood. He laments about how time flies and tells her about everything he used to do, including stealing candy from a shop. One of those candies he used to steal was called Mistral Gagnat which no longer exists. 

Mistral Gagnant “winning Mistral” was a type of candy sold in France. Some of the candies were winners, which you could exchange for another free Mistra Gagnant candy. 

In 2014 French Canadian singer Béatrice Martin better known by her stage name Cœur de pirate, sang Mistral Gagnant, which became an instant hit in Francophone countries. 

“Joe le taxi” by Vanessa Paradis (1987) – “Joe The Taxi Driver”

“Joe le Taxi” is a 1987 pop song recorded by Vanessa Paradis when she was 18 years old. 

Vanessa became a famous French child star at the age of 14 modelling, singing and acting. She is also the ex-wife of Johnny Depp whom she has a daughter together with.

The French song “Joe le taxi” was written by Étienne Roda-Gil For Paradis and became her biggest hit, reaching number one in France and other European countries.

It has a catchy, upbeat sound with lyrics about a taxi driver named Joe who takes his passengers on wild adventures through the city. The song is a classic French pop song and remains one of Paradis’ most well-known songs, recognized throughout France. 

“Avec le temps”by Léo Ferré (1986) – “With time”

“Avec le temps” is a French song written and performed by the renowned French singer and composer Léo Ferré. 

The song’s sad melody and introspective lyrics reflect on the passing of time and the memories it leaves behind. It’s been covered by numerous artists and remains a staple of French popular culture today.

5 Famous French songs from the 1990s

A new type of French music emerged in the 90s called “French house,” aka “French touch.” This unique style of house music or Euro Disco sound relied on filter and phaser effects alongside samples of songs from the late 1970s and early 1980s disco tracks.

“À toutes les filles” by Didier Barbelivien and Félix Gray (1990) – “To all the girls”

“À toutes les filles” was released in 1990 and quickly became one of the most popular and well-known French songs.

The song’s lyrics are a love letter to all women, expressing gratitude and admiration for their beauty and grace. 

Although the song sounds similar to “To all the Girls I’ve loved before” by Julio Iglesias and Willie Nelson, the two songs are unrelated. 

“Juste quelqu’un de bien” by Enzo Enzo (1994) – “Just a nice person”

In 1995, this song received the prestigious music award “Victoire de la chanson original,” where people vote for their favourite song by SMS or the internet. 

“Pour que tu m’aimes encore” by Celine Dion (1995) – “So that you love me again.”

French-Canadian singer Celine Dion sings about a love she has lost and all the things she’d do to get her lover back.

“J’t’emmène au vent” by Louise Attaque (1997) – “I’ll take you away on the wind”

“J’t’emmène au vent” is a French alternative rock song that blends folk and modern rock. The song talks about a man trying to win over a woman and taking her away from her troubles. He promises to take her “to the wind” and escape everyday life’s difficulties. He’s determined to protect and care for the woman and to bring her happiness.

Je ne t’aime plus” by Manu Chao (1999) – “I don’t love you anymore.”

This catchy French song by French – Spanish singer Manu Chao is about a man who doesn’t love someone anymore but remembers how much better things were when he was in love.

“L’hymne de nos campagnes” by Tyro (1998) – “The anthem of our countryside.”

Tryo is a French group with a strong reggae influence. Their song “L’hymne de nos campagnes” opens with the words, “If you were born in an HLM city, I dedicate this poem to you” and goes on to defend nature, ecology and the world while encouraging the listeners to do something positive, find a job and take action.

The reference to “HLM” is to a type of housing, typically for the poor supported by the state. They wrote the song one summer when they went to the Pyrenees.

“Les Démons de Minuit” by Image (1999) – “The Midnight Demons”

This song is about facing one’s fears and overcoming them. The song was a hit in France and has been covered by many other artists.

7 Famous French songs from the 2000s


“Jardin d’hiver” by Benjamin Biolay and Keren Anne (2000) –  “Winter Garden”

Jardin d’hiver” is a song co-written by Benjamin Biolay and French-Israeli songwriter Keren Ann inspired by “Café España” from the Caribbean Jazz Project on their 1995 album of the same name. Benjamin and Keren offered the song to Guyana-born French singer Henri Salvator to sing in 2000 and it became a hit.

The beautiful French lyrics express the singer’s longing for a sunny and bright life with sun, lace, teapots, and seaside photos. The singer wants to change their winter garden’s atmosphere, and to please their partner. 

Listen to both versions by Keren Anne and Henri Salvador below. 

“La valse d’Amélie” by Yann Tiersen (2001) – “Amelie’s waltz”

The French cult film Amélie came out in the 2000s, and, with it, a slew of beautiful musical and iconic tracts created by Yann Tierson. I’ve included 2 of my favourites. 

“Comptine d’un autre été: L’Après-midi” by Yann Tiersen (2001) – “Nursery rhyme of another summer: the afternoon.”

Another mysterious song from the French cult film “Amélie.” 

You might be be interested in the 17 Iconic Amelie Movie Locations You Can Visit, Including The Café

“Le Vent Nous Portera” by Noir Désir (2001)- “The Wind Will Carry Us”

This famous French song describes the journey of life and the passage of time. It’s one of Noir Désir’s most well-known songs that many artists have covered.

“Mon amant de Saint-Jean” by Patrick Bruel (2002) – “My lover from Saint-Jean”

I wasn’t sure what decade to put this song in because the French song “Mon amant de Saint-Jean” is a hit French song with a contagious waltz rhythm that was first recorded by Lucienne Delyle in 1942. However, because of its popularity, it has been covered by countless artists over the years.

This classic French song was covered by Patrick Bruel in 2002, and it’s one of my favourite versions. 

The song is about a girl who has a secret relationship with a man from Saint-Jean and the love she feels for her seducer with no future. 

“Quelqu’un m’a dit” by Carla Bruni (2003) – “Someone told me”

“Quelqu’un m’a dit” is a French folk inspired song recorded by Carla Bruni in her signature breathy vocals.

Carla Bruni is a household name in France. She is a singer-songwriter and former model who was born in Turin Italy and raised in France. She was also married to former French President Nicolas Sarkozy from 2008 to 2013

The song is introspective and reflects on the end of a relationship, with the singer asking a friend what they should do next. The song was very successful in France, reaching the top of the charts.

“Elle, Elle l’a” by France Gall (2004) – “She, She Has It”

This classic French pop song talks about a woman with all the qualities that make her stand out and how she captivates everyone around her. It’s uplifting and speaks about the beauty of being unique and confident.

21 Famous French songs from  2010 to 2019

“Alors on danse” by Stromae (2009) – “And so we dance”

“Alors on danse” is a French song with a catchy, upbeat melody. The song encourages listeners to dance and have fun, regardless of what life may bring. The overarching theme miss about living in the moment and enjoying life, despite its difficulties and challenges. 

“Toi et moi” by Guillaume Grand (2010) – “You and me”

This lovely French song explores the idea that even though two people may be deeply in love, their differences can sometimes get in the way of their relationship.

“Je veux” by Zaz, (2010 ) “I Want”

Isabelle Geffroy, known professionally as Zaz, is a French singer and songwriter who often blends jazzy, French, soul and acoustic into her songs.

This song is upbeat French pop song is about hope, desire, and chasing one’s dreams. 

“L’horloge tourne” by Mickael Miro (2011) – “The clock is ticking”

The song is about the passage of time, that life is short and how we should make the most of every day, as the clock never stops ticking. The song was well-received in France and became a hit, reaching the top of the charts and staying there for several weeks.

“Elle ma dit” by MIKA (2012) – “She told me”

Elle ma dit” is a French song that tells the story of a person reflecting on their past and the lessons they learned from the people they have loved. The song was a hit in France and many other countries, reaching the top of the charts.

MIKA, whose real name is Michael Holbrook Penniman Jr is Lebanese-British, born in Beirut, Lebanon and raised in Paris, France, before moving to the United Kingdom.

“C’est la vie” by Khaled (2012) – “That’s life.”

C’est la vie” by Khaled, whose real name is  Algerian raï, is an upbeat, feel-good song that celebrates life’s ups and downs. The song is a bilingual French-Arabic song with the main verses in Algerian Darja Arabic and the chorus in French.

“Parler à mon père” by Celine Dion (2013) “Talk to my father”

“Parler à mon père” is a French song by French Canadian singer and songwriter Celine Dion. The song is a heartfelt tribute to her late father, Adhémar Dion, who passed away in 2003. The lyrics express Celine’s desire to speak to her father one last time and to tell him how much she loves and misses him.

“Papaoutai” by Stromae (2013)  – “Daddy Where Are You?” 

“Papaoutai” is a 2013 French pop song recorded by Belgian singer-songwriter Stromae with a catchy blend of electronic and hip-hop-inspired beats.

The lyrics describe a young person’s search for their absent father.

Stromae, whose real name is Paul Van Haver, has been quoted as saying that his song “Pappaoutai” is his way of addressing issues of growing up without his father, who was killed in the Rwandan Genocide in 1994 when Stromae was just a child.

“Dernière Danse” by Indila (2013) – “Last Dance”

“Dernière Danse” has become one of Indila’s most famous and beloved songs and is considered a modern classic of French pop music. It reached the top of the charts not only in France but also in other French-speaking countries. Many artists have covered and remixed it, making Indila one of her generation’s most successful French artists.

 The lyrics of “Dernière Danse” are about the end of a relationship. The singer pleads with her lover to stay with her and dance one last dance before saying goodbye. She is trying to hold onto their love and shared memories but knows their time together has ended. 

“Formidable” by Stromae, (2013) – “Formidable”

“Formidable” by Belgian singer Stromae was a massive hit in France and other French-speaking countries and one of his most famous songs, which helped him become one of his generation’s most successful and innovative French artists. Stromae is known for his unique blend of pop, hip-hop, and electronic music.

The song is about a drunk man trying to find his way home after a night of partying. Feeling overwhelmed by the night’s events, he struggles to stay coherent. The song is a mix of humour, melancholy, and introspection. The narrator reflects on his behaviour and the consequences of his actions.

“Bella” by Maître Gims, (2013) –  “Bella” 

“Bella” is a song by French rapper Maître Gims aka Gims. His song Bella talks about an h ex, a beautiful woman named Bella and warns others that she is not to be trusted. 

“Sur ma route” by Black M, (2014) “On My Way.” 

.”Sur ma route” is probably one of Black M’s biggest hits and is considered a classic French rap song.

Black M, (real name Alpha Diallo), is a French rapper of Guinean descent who started as a member of the French hip-hop group sexion d’assaut. He is known for his socially and politically conscious lyrics, as well as his catchy, energetic beats and infectious hooks. 

“Sur ma route” is an upbeat, hip-hop-inspired song with a positive, motivational message that encourages everyone to follow their dreams and never give up on their goals. The song became a major hit in France.

Andalouse” by Kendji Girac (2014) – “Andalusian”

“Andalouse” is a French pop song recorded by Kendji Girac.

The song features a catchy, upbeat melody with lyrics in both French and Spanish that celebrate the Andalusian region of southern Spain and its vibrant culture.

Girac is a French singer of Spanish descent. He rose to fame as the winner of the third season of the French version of the Voice and has since become one of France’s most popular and successful pop artists.

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Annie André

Annie André

About the author

I'm Annie André, a bilingual North American with Thai and French Canadian roots. I've lived in France since 2011. When I'm not eating cheese, drinking wine or hanging out with my husband and children, I write articles on my personal blog annieandre.com for intellectually curious people interested in all things France: Life in France, travel to France, French culture, French language, travel and more.

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