The French have contributed significantly to the global music scene for many centuries. But here in this article, we discuss about current French bands and artists in particular who have made a name in and outside of their country.
A lot of these artists have made a break into the bigger global market where they have attained big commercial successes, while some of them have gained a devoted cult following.
The French have gained renown in electronic, dance and house music movement, producing stellar artists such as Étienne de Crécy and Tahiti 80. But the Grammy Award-winning electronic duo Daft Punk is among the most famous French exports in this genre. Their most commercially successful single is “Get Lucky,” featuring American singer Pharrell Williams and American guitarist/songwriter/producer Nile Rodgers. It peaked at #2 on the US Billboard Hot 100 and #1 on the UK chart in 2013, in addition to becoming a massive dance chart hit in many countries.
In 1993, Guy-Manuel de Homem-Christo and Thomas Bangalter formed Daft Punk from the ashes of a short-lived indie rock band named Darlin’. They enjoyed their truly first global recognition when their second studio album Discovery (2001) became a hit on several charts (including the US Billboard 200 album chart where it peaked at #23). Despite their fame, the duo mostly prefers to hide behind their signature robotic costumes when appearing in live performances and in their music videos; also, they rarely grant interviews.
Students Nicolas Godin and Jean-Benoît Dunckel formed Air in Versailles in 1995. In 1998 Air released their debut album Moon Safari, which garnered critical acclaim not just in France but internationally as well. It yielded three top 30 UK hits: “Sexy Boy,” “Kelly Watch the Stars” and “All I Need.” “Sexy Boy” also placed #22 on Billboard’s dance and electronic charts.
Air also began to work with American director Sofia Coppola by providing the film score to her film The Virgin Suicides (2000). The film itself became a cult hit while the soundtrack album peaked at #161 on the Billboard 200 album chart. Since then, Air have often collaborated with Coppola by contributing works to soundtracks of her other films like Lost in Translation and Marie Antoinette.
Air’s second studio album, 10 000 Hz Legend (#88 on the Billboard 200 in 2001) showed the duo venturing deeper into electronic pop. The album also featured collaborations with Beck and other indie artists. They went on to release six more albums, their latest to date being 2014’s Music for Museum.
Justice is a Parisian duo consisting of Gaspard Augé and Xavier de Rosnay, known for their punk/indie rock-inflected dance and electronic pop. Their 2007 single “D.A.N.C.E.” (as well as its accompanying music video) exploded the online music world which generated a lot of buzz among netizens, and even inspired several (and unofficial) MP3 remixes. All the hype on the Internet led to the release of Justice’s debut album Cross (which is often stylized as †). It was released first in their native country, and subsequently in the US (on Vice Music label).
Justice continued to play out their diverse influences through their ensuing albums: Audio, Video, Disco (2011) which delved more into prog-rock and even new wave. Their third album Woman (2016) is mostly described by critics as “bright” and “joyful.”
Augé and de Rosnay themselves are also known as prolific sound remixers, having worked with notable artists such as Britney Spears, Fatboy Slim, Franz Ferdinand and fellow Frenchmen Daft Punk.
Actress and singer Charlotte Gainsbourg obviously has show business in her pedigree. Her mother is English actress Jane Birkin, while her father is the late Serge Gainsbourg (covered by bands such as Hot Butter), France’s most renowned and beloved artist who was known for his witty lyrics as well as his turbulent personal life and scandals.
Gainsbourg made her musical debut with a track she recorded with her father, “Lemon Incest” back in the 1980s, which provoked controversy.
Living outside the shadow of her famous parents, Gainsbourg has proven to be an artist of her own right. Her latest releases, 5:55 (2006) and IRM (2009), enjoyed a particularly warm reception stateside. While her natural musical prowess cannot be denied, credit also goes to her high-profile collaborations such as Paul McCartney, Beck, Air and Jarvis Cocker.
Her latest album to date, Rest (2017), has been receiving wide critical acclaim.
Parisian-born DJ and producer David Guetta is regarded as one of the top DJ’s in the world, having churned one big hit after another not just in France but also elsewhere.
Although his first three albums – Just a Little More Love (2002), Guetta Blaster (2004) and Pop Life (2007) were big hits especially in his home country, Guetta tasted his breakout success with his third album, One Love (2009), his first major international release. It featured the hit singles such as “When Love Takes Over” (feat. Kelly Rowland), “Memories” (feat. Kid Cudi) and “Sexy Bitch” (feat. Akon), it became a big hit in Europe; the album also peaked at #70 on the US Billboard 200 chart.
His sixth album Listen (2014) featured even more notable artists such as Nick Minaj, John Legend and The Script. Although the album received a mixed critical reception, it became a massive global success, enjoying top 10 hit chart positions in several countries. It also peaked at #4 on the US Billboard 200.
Guetta’s brand of sleek house music, plus high-profile collaborations, have brought him worldwide mainstream fame and financial success. To date, he has sold over 9 million albums and 30 million singles globally. As of 2015, his estimated annual income is $37 million, according to Forbes.