Even if you’re not fluent in French, the beautiful music of France and other French-speaking countries can add layers of beauty and culture to your listening experience. They can help set the mood for a romantic interlude, add some flavor to your romantic writing playlist, or boost your vibe as you explore the music world.
But to help you along the way, we’ve crafted this list of the most famous French songs to get you started. Read up on them and give them a listen, expanding your horizons or reliving an old memory of walking through the South of France or along the Seine.
Non, Je Ne Regrette Rien – Édith Piaf
Translated to English, ‘Non, Je Ne Regrette Rien’ means “No, I regret nothing.” The song was written by two young French composers, Charles Dumont and Michel Vaucaire, who convinced the recently retired Édith Piaf to make a comeback for the song. They approached her with the song, hoping she would hear it and change her mind about bidding the musical world adieu. As they started playing the piano, they said, Piaf’s attitude changed immediately, and she asked them to play the song over and over again. She decided the magnificent song was made just for her, so she agreed to record the song.
Related: Do you have any regrets? Listen to these songs about remorse.
Ne Me Quitte Pas – F. Rauber Et Son Ensemble and Jacques Brel
“Do not leave me!” The rough translation of this evocative song’s title, ‘Ne Me Quitte Pas,’ is as moving as the lyrics. The entire emotion of the song is right there, wide open in the painful title. And as you listen to Jaques Brel sing it, you can feel the depth of longing and pleading in every word, even if you don’t understand a word of French. The song is better known to English speakers as ‘If You Go Away,’ which expresses some of the emotion, but the literal translation drives home the passion.
Related: Here are the best songs about leaving someone you love.
Tous Les Garçons Et Les Filles – Françoise Hardy
This upbeat, rhythmic and rocky French song by Françoise Hardy is both fun and enticing with its unique sounds and Hardy’s evocative voice. The title, ‘Tous Garçons Et Les Filles,’ translates as “all the boys and girls.” The song recounts the feelings of a young person who’s never known love but envies all the happy couples around her. It’s a sentiment most of us can relate to at some point in life or our pasts, but with Hardy’s delivery, we can sense it even more. Perhaps this is why the song was a massive hit in France.
Related: Jealous of someone or something? These best songs about envy will help you with your feelings.
Alors On Danse – Stromae
Paul Van Haver, better known as Stromae, gives us ‘Alors On Danse,’ a French song steeped in the singer/songwriter’s Belgian and Rwandan background. The song is a Euro disco number about distracting oneself from life’s problems. The song was one of the biggest hits in 2010 in continental Europe, and it became the first French-language single to hit number one in Germany since 1988. The song’s title translates roughly to “then we dance,” suggesting the nature of the lyrics about looking toward joy over frustration.
Pour Que Tu M’aimes Encore – Céline Dion
The French-Canadian singer, Céline Dion, gives us the evocative song whose title translates literally as “for you to love me again.” It was written by Jean-Jacques Goldman and was the piece that helped launch the singer into the British public eye, with heavy radio play and ranking as one of the few non-English language songs to hit singles charts. Dion eventually re-recorded the song in English, with the title ‘If That’s What It Takes,’ in case you feel like hearing the lyrics in English to better understand the French.
L’aventurier – Indochine
From French pop-rock new wave band Indochine, ‘L’aventurier’ translates literally as “the adventurer.” The upbeat song evokes the fictional world of Miss Ylang-Ylang, Bob Morane, and Bill Ballantine from Henri Vernes’s novel series about Bob Morane, the French-speaking adventurer. The song was written, along with several others on the album of the same title, to evoke these adventures and stories for the concept album.
Related: Read about more of the best book songs.
Les Lacs Du Connemara – Michel Sardou
This song may not be the most accurate about the region of Ireland, but the “Lakes of Connemara” was sort of written by accident, according to Sardou. He’d never been and knew next to nothing about the country’s history. Legend is that when the song was being worked on, the composer’s keyboard got stuck in a weird setting and sounded like bagpipes. Taking that little bit of weirdness, the song was inspired and written unintentionally about Ireland instead of Scotland, as they meant. They didn’t have the internet to research, so they could only rely on a brochure about Connemara.
La Vie En Rose – Édith Piaf
This is possibly one of the most well-known French songs of all time outside of French-speaking nations. The song was written in 1945 and has been used on numerous film and television scores since, featuring Piaf and several other artists covering it since. The title literally translates to “life in pink,” and the lyrics are about looking at life through “rose-colored glasses” or with a shade of hope others might not see.
Related: This song features on our playlist of rose songs.
Ego – Willy William
‘Ego’ by Willy William, a French singer, and producer, was released in 2015. The song is some kind of introspective lyric, so fans think, reflecting on the self and the ego of relationships and life. The song asks, “mirror, who is the prettiest of them all?” and seeks an invitation into the matrix of another soul to experience their world. Yet it refers back to being a megalomaniac and the ego, time after time. As you make your way through the song, it’s revealed that entry is requested into a deeper understanding of self.
Dernière Danse – Indila
Roughly translated as “last dance,” ‘Dernière Danse’ by French singer-songwriter Indila was the first single from her debut album, Mini World. The song is seen as an expression of the desire to dance away the pain of loneliness and bigotry due to racism experienced by the singer and others like her. Indila has described herself as a “child of the world” because she is of Indian, Algerian, Egyptian, and Cambodian descent. The lyrics strongly suggest this could be the pain fueling the song. Pain, fear, grief, a desire to flee, and feeling unimportant and unseen are all part of the deeply emotive song.
Related: Many people have to deal with inequality. Listen to more songs about social issues.
Je T’aime Moi Non Plus – Jane Birkin and Serge Gainsbourg
“I love you, too” is a sentiment many of us might find shallow at first blush. But the title in French comes by way of a deeper emotion when you include the “me, neither” that the song includes in that ellipses. The song is full of passion and romance and was actually banned from BBC airways because of its intense expressions of passion back in the 1960s. The song is about the vulnerability found in love and romance, where the “me neither” part comes in, expressing that fear of rejection, even in the midst of a relationship.
J’t’emmène Au Vent – Louise Attaque
Louise Attaque, or “Louise attacks” in English, is a French band that formed in 1994, referring back to Louise Michel, a 19th Century anarchist, along with the American rock band the Violent Femmes (roughly translating to “violent women”). This song translates to “I bring you with wind” in English, and is about love that rises above the frailties and pains of life, above the disparages of those against you, but even more, that true love is mutual and not one-sided.
Related: Check out the best songs about finding your soulmate.
Je Veux – Zaz
The simple concept of the song title translates plainly to “I want.” The song is considered one of the greatest (if not the greatest) hits by French songstress, Zaz (Isabelle Geffroy). The song, released in 2010, is a statement about materialism and the overabundant emphasis put on luxury and desire in the world. The song references many material possessions people often want, from high-end suites at fancy hotels to expensive jewelry and pricey cars, but then asks, “what would I do with all of that?” Replacing the material with the eternal, she then says, “I want love, joy, and happiness; I want to die with my hand on my heart,” and invites the listeners to discover freedom from the materialistic world.
Related: You won’t be able to get enough of the best songs about being greedy.
Joe Le Taxi – Vanessa Paradis
This title is roughly translated as “Joe the taxi driver,” and the song is about just that—a Parisian taxi driver. Vanessa Paradis recorded this song when she was just 14 years old. The song hit number 1 on 14 charts around the world and stayed on top for 11 weeks in the French charts. The success of this song launched the young woman’s career into the spotlight in her acting, modeling, and singing career. The song is actually a simple rumba, and Paradis never thought it would launch her career.
Related: Get to work with these songs with jobs in the title.
Nuit De Folie – Début de Soirée
‘Nuit De Folie,’ or “crazy night/night of madness,” was a pop song released in 1988 by the French pop duet, Début de Soirée. Many critics considered the song a “good summer smash” with an amazing hook and a catchy pop-rap mid-section. It topped the charts for over two months that summer and was rereleased in 2000 as a remix.
Femme Libérée – Cookie Dingler
‘Femme Libérée’ or “liberated woman” was the one-hit wonder from band Cookie Dingler, a French group from the 1980s. The song was their huge success, followed by nothing others noted. The song was actually one that fell with the “thoughtless songs” mocking the popular societal themes of the day.
Foule Sentimentale – Alain Souchon
Roughly translated as “sentimental crowd,” ‘Foule Sentimentale’ by French artist Alain Souchon was released in 1993. The song criticizes the “superfluity of the materialistic society.” It was ranked as a “clean and efficient” song by critics, won some awards, and charted successfully in France for five months. The song has been covered again and again by many artists in French, Portuguese, Dutch, Russian, and others.
Elle Me Dit – Mika
‘Elle Me Dit’ or “she tells me” was written and recorded by Lebanese-born British singer-songwriter Mika, who released the single in France ahead of his third studio album. He re-recorded the song in English under the title ‘Emily.’ The song was written intentionally in French because Mika had wanted to do that for a long time. He wrote the song in Provence within three days after an entire year of struggling to write music.
Je Te Promets – Johnny Hallyday
The third single from his album Gang, ‘Je te promets,’ is translated roughly to mean “I promise you” in English. The song was written by Jean-Jacques Goldman, recorded by Johnny Hallyday, and released in 1987. The song has become one of Hallyday’s standards for live performances and remains a popular French song. The emotional song is a love song full of evocative lines: “I promise you the key to the secrets of my soul. I promise you life from my laughter to my tears. No more goodbyes only ‘until we meet again.”
Flou – Angèle
A rather personal song from Angèle, ‘Flou’ walks listeners through the early steps of her career as an artist. She notes the fears she faced as she became known to the general public in France and Belgium. The song is about the blurriness (“flou” translates as “blurry”) she felt in her life, that fame had made everything in her private and public world become unclear, unfocused, and foggy. The positives of the career are wonderful, she notes, but for someone who deals with a lot of anxiety, it was nerve-wracking and challenging to become known to the world.
Related: Got a lot on your mind? Here are some songs that describe anxiety.
Paroles Paroles – Alain Delon and Dalida
A song literally about words, ‘Paroles, Paroles’ (literally “words, words”) by French singer Dalida featured the French actor Alain Delon. The piece was released in 1973 as Dalida’s lead single for her next album. The lyrics depict a conversation between a man offering sweets to a woman and many compliments on what it all means to her: “Nothing. Empty words.” The song has become one of the most recognizable French songs of all time across the planet.
Related: Words carry a lot of weight. Enjoy our playlist of songs about words.
Ça Plane Pour Moi – Plastic Bertrand
Belgian artist Plastic Bertrand (also known as Roger Jouret) released ‘Ca Plane Pour Moi’ in 1978. The title translates as “that plane for me,” though the meaning is clearly “this life’s for me.” The lyrics don’t seem to be founded particularly on a given theme beyond what the title suggests but rather have more of a lean into “vaguely sounding rock ‘n roll,” according to some folks. There’s an English version of the song, too, entitled ‘Jet Boy Jet Girl’ released by Elton Motello at approximately the same time as the French version.
Le Sud – Nino Ferrer
‘Le Sud’ or simply “south,” is a piece with a lovely ambiance depicting a stunning garden full of bright moods and uplifting lyrics. The lyrics describe a peaceful backyard terrace full of laundry flapping in the breeze, where time lasts long and life is always in summer. It’s a daydream song of what life should and could be, except it references the War in the South. The references are Italy, Louisiana, and France, so which “south” is up for debate since there have been wars in all locations that have torn the world apart.
Related: Enjoy a bit of nature with these songs about gardens.
Les Champs‐Élysées – Joe Dassin
A 1969 song by French-American singer Joe Dassin, ‘Les Champs-Élysées is the French adaptation of the ‘Waterloo Road’ written the year before in English by the British songwriting duo Mike Wilsh and Mike Deighan. The two songs reference two different roads, each prominent in the land of their language, Waterloo Road in London and Avenue des Champs-Élysées in Paris. The English version was released by British rock band Jason Crest, while a French lyricist translated and adapted it into French for Joe Dassin to release as a single.
Cendrillon – Téléphone
‘Cendrillon’ is the French name for Cinderella. The French song by Téléphone is a unique take on the fairy tale of old. The song is about a young woman, Cendrillon, who has longed for this man, thinking it would be the perfect match and being with him would be this amazing life. But then she realizes fairy tales are just that, and the guy she’s been longing for is actually with someone else, and her dreams have gone. It’s a bit of a wake-up kind of song to the reality that fairy tales are nice on paper, but in reality, life is much harder.
Related: Are you pining for someone? Try these songs about wanting to be loved.
Je Danse Le Mia – IAM
“I dance the mia” is a play on the name of the French hip-hop band IAM. The group released the song in 1994 as their first single from their second album, Ombre est Lumière. The song was written by the IAM rappers Akhenaton Skurik’n, DJ Kheops, and DJ/beat-maker Imhotep. The song uses a sample from George Benson’s ‘Give Me the Night’ and is deemed a “joyful, nostalgic, and funky melody” by critics in contrast to much of the group’s previous works that are thought of more as pessimistic texts.
Au Bout De Mes Rêves – Jean-Jacques Goldman
The title may be translated as “to/at the end of my dreams.” The French singer-songwriter Jean-Jacques Goldman, who wrote this stunning piece, has done a beautiful job with it. The song references the destruction of Jericho’s walls (from the Old Testament) and the Odyssey by Homer. The song’s narrative begins with crumbling walls as time hurries past, flowing into a sense of abandonment and loss. But “I’ll go to the end of my dreams, to the very end of my dreams.”
Related: Break down barriers with these songs about walls.
Quelqu’un M’a Dit – Carla Bruni
French-Italian singer Carli Bruni released ‘Quelqu’un M’a Dit’ (or “someone told me”) on her debut studio album in 2003. The melancholy song draws from the sadness of life with a heavy nihilistic overtone. “They tell me that our lives are not worth very much. They pass in an instant as roses wilt.” The song hopes that whoever the receiver of the song is will still love her, that someone told her they would. She just can’t remember who.
Elle A Les Yeux Revolver – Marc Lavoine
The literal translation of the title isn’t very helpful, but the emotive translation may give you the message: “she has piercing eyes.” The 1985 pop song was recorded by French singer Marc Lavoine and released as the second single from his self-titled debut album. The song was written for his ex-girlfriend Solène Noris after she broke up with him for not using a recyclable toothbrush. She’s described as a “femme fatale.” The song uses violins and a “Far Eastern” flair for some unique coloring.
Superchérie – Matthieu Chedid
Matthieu Chedid, also known as -M-, is a French guitarist and rock singer-songwriter with tons of musical awards (in fact, he’s the most awarded artist at the Victories de la Musique with 13 awards, tied with Alain Bashung). The song ‘Superchérie’ is about “deception” (what the title translates to in English) and unhealthy relationships. Even if you don’t speak French, you can pick up on the song’s message: “Tu es toxique, mon heroine” or “you are toxic, my heroine.”
Related: Here are the best toxic love songs.
Casser La Voix – Patrick Bruel
The song ‘Casser La Voix’ or “break the voice” by Patrick Bruel and Gérard Presgurvic has some intriguing play on words going on. The song, though, is about relationships, loneliness, and identifying relationships the singer doesn’t want to be in. The phrase “break the voice” doesn’t make as much sense in English as it does idiomatically in French, but you still get the idea. “(What) if tonight, I don’t want to shut up? (What) if tonight, I want to break my voice?”
La Poupée Qui Fait Non – Michel Polnareff
Written in 1966 by Franck Gérald and Michel Polnareff, this song which translates to “the doll who says no,” was an instant success in France. The song became Polnareff’s most definitive song, and the artist recorded it again in German, Spanish, and Italian. The original featured Jimmy Page (from Led Zeppelin and the Yardbirds) on guitar for the song.
Pour Un Flirt – Michel Delpech
A single by French singer Michel Delpech, ‘Pour Un Flirt’ translates literally as “for a flirt” and “for a date.” The song was released in 1971. It tanked at number 1 for four weeks that year and has since been used in multiple films such as Didine, When I Was a Singer, and Toi, Moi, Les Autres, among others. The lyrics are a sort of pleading song, basically saying, “I would do anything for a date with you!”
Dès Que Le Vent Soufflera – Renaud
This song is about the sea: “it’s not the man that takes the sea, it’s the sea that takes man.” The song gives the narrative of a man “taken” by the sea one Tuesday when he traded his leather jacket and boots for a pair of “dockside shoes and an old yellow rain jacket.” The song is likely a metaphor for society. The title literally translates to “as soon as the wind blows.”
Related: Sail away while you sing these song lyrics about the sea.
Sacré Charlemagne – France Gall
If you’re at least a little intrigued by history, ‘Sacré Charlemagne’ by France Gall may pique your interest. The 1964 single by the singer’s father, Robert Gall, is indeed about the emperor Charlemagne, the historical figure often credited with “inventing school” since education became compulsory during his reign. The song is actually a bit of a cute one since Gall is blaming Charlemagne for having to attend school.
Related: Class is in session! Learn about the best songs about high school.
Comme D’habitude – Benoît Poelvoorde and Claude François
‘Comme D’habitude’ roughly translates to “as per usual” in English and was the original version behind the famed Frank Sinatra song, ‘My Way.’ The song was written by Claude Francois, aka “CloClo,” described as being somewhere between a French Wayne Newton and Elvis. He was known for his many hits in both French and English and his “Claudettes,” or backup dancers who eventually inspired the Solid Gold Dancers.
Related: Hear Frank Sinatra’s song on our songs for retirement playlist.
La Bohème – Charles Aznavour and Liza Minnelli
‘La Bohème’ translates as “the Bohemian.” Jacques Plante and Armenian-French artist Charles Aznavour wrote the song. The song became Aznavour’s signature song and has become a staple of his, along with being a staple of French chanson (music). The song is the remembrance of an older painter looking back on his youth in Montmartre when he was “young and happy.” The song was written, according to Aznavour, as a farewell to the last days of the Bohemian Montmartre.