15 Famous French Singers Every French Speaker Knows

French music has a lot to offer beyond the romantic accordion tunes you’d hear in a 1950’s café.

French songwriters enjoy subtlety and clever wordplay, so lyricists spend quite some time finding the mot juste (right word) to turn a simple song into a true work of art.

In this post, you’ll discover 15 of the most famous French singers whose tunes will transport you to the wonderfully poetic world of French music.


1. Jean-Jacques Goldman

If you haven’t heard of Jean-Jacques Goldman, you can’t really be faulted. This lyrical genius is famously reclusive. He used to come to his shows dressed in a simple pair of jeans and T-shirt and would either drive his old, banged-up car to get there or take the metro.

Today, he has retired from the tour life to spend time with his family, but there are nearly 40 years of his extremely prolific music career that you can explore.

Not only does Goldman write for himself, but he’s also the pen behind a number of famous artists, including Céline Dion and Yannick Noah.

He notably performed a bilingual song in English and French called Je te donne (I Give You), linked above, which might be a good place to start listening!

2. Jacques Brel

Jacques Brel isn’t actually French. This Belgian singer has, however, become a beloved star in both his native country and France alike.

With a charismatic stage presence and a knack for storytelling, Brel’s impact extends beyond borders as a versatile artist whose poetic narratives continue to resonate across cultures.

He even found success in America, to a certain extent. So how have you never heard of him?

His songs didn’t cross the pond in their original form, but rather they were translated and performed by the likes of Frank Sinatra and John Denver.

You can start listening to Brel in his native French with a song like Ne me quitte pas (Don’t Leave Me), shown above. It includes a lot of promises made to a lover who’s considering leaving the singer.

3. Édith Piaf

Édith Piaf almost belies introduction. The “Sparrow,” (the translation of piaf, her stage name) was one of France’s most beloved singers and remains famous throughout France and the world over.

Her distinctive voice is just the half of it. Piaf chose songs from some incredible lyricists of her day to portray her complex emotions. While she did not write her own music, she often went to songwriters she trusted with ideas, themes and phrases she wanted in her songs.

Piaf’s Je ne regrette rien (I Have No Regrets) is a timeless classic that reflects her life philosophy of embracing the present and looking forward without remorse. Hymne à l’amour (Hymn to Love), above, explores all of the things that the singer would do if her lover asked.

4. Pierre Delanoë

Speaking of Edith, Pierre Delanoë was one of several lyricists who worked with her.

While Delanoë did not typically sing his own songs, he was the pen behind many of France’s favorite voices, including Gilbert Bécaud (with whom he did actually sing for a short time), Joe Dassin and Michel Sardou.

He was fairly vocal about the sort of music he appreciated, saying in 2006 that he disliked rap music because it was “a form of expression for people incapable of making music.”

Delanoë’s music offers a cultural window into France, illustrating the intersection of music and societal values, making him a revered figure in the nation’s musical heritage.

Et maintenant (And Now) was written by Pierre Delanoë, composed by Gilbert Bécaud and originally performed by Bécaud. It captures the emotional weight of a love that has come to an end and the uncertainty of what lies ahead.

5. Charles Aznavour

This Franco-Armenian singer-songwriter has been dubbed France’s Frank Sinatra—this should give you a good idea of the sorts of songs this crooner was so famous for.

Over Aznavour’s long career (which spanned more than seven decades), he composed nearly 1,000 songs in several languages. These songs were filled with a variety of themes and melodies. After all that multilingual work, it’s no real surprise that later in his life he worked in international relations.

Songs like “La Bohème” and “She” showcase Aznavour’s ability to evoke deep emotions and capture the essence of the human experience.

A good intro to his French songs is Je n’ai pas vu le temps passer (I Didn’t See the Time Go By), which captures the essence of the fleeting nature of time and the emotional weight of moments that have slipped away unnoticed.

6. Serge Gainsbourg

Serge Gainsbourg, born in Paris in 1928, stands as an icon in the realms of French music, literature and film. A true polymath, Gainsbourg’s career encompassed roles as a singer, songwriter, actor and provocateur. 

Known for his seductive voice and innovative compositions, Gainsbourg’s artistic legacy is full of creativity, pushing boundaries and challenging societal norms.

Gainsbourg’s public image often featured heavy smoking and drinking, and his provocative behaviors and statements (including his song lyrics) sparked public debate and earned him both praise and criticism.

He captivated audiences with hits like La Javanaise (The Javanaise) and Je t’aime… moi non plus (I Love You…Me Neither), which was banned in several countries for its explicit lyrics.

While Gainsbourg’s controversial actions were part of his artistic identity, they also fueled discussions about the boundaries of art, freedom of expression and societal norms.

7. Françoise Hardy

Françoise Hardy is another iconic, Paris-born figure in French music, renowned for her enchanting voice, timeless beauty and influential role in the yé-yé pop movement of the 1960s.

Hardy’s career began in the early ’60s, and she swiftly became an international sensation with her debut single Tous les garçons et les filles (All the Boys and Girls). Her distinct, breathy vocals and poetic lyrics contributed to the success of subsequent albums like “La Question” (1971) and “Message personnel” (1973).

Hardy’s chic style and collaborations with prominent artists like Serge Gainsbourg solidified her status as a fashion and cultural icon. With a career spanning decades, Françoise Hardy remains an influential and beloved figure in French music, recognized for her enduring contributions to the field.

8. Brigitte Bardot

Brigitte Bardot is an iconic figure known for her multifaceted career as an actress, singer and animal rights activist.

Rising to international fame in the 1950s and 1960s, Bardot became synonymous with French beauty and sensuality, starring in numerous acclaimed films such as “And God Created Woman” (1956).

In addition to her successful acting career, Bardot released several albums and singles that showcased her sultry voice. Her song La Madrague (the name of Bardot’s property) became a classic French song.

Despite her artistic achievements, Bardot’s later years saw a notable shift as she dedicated herself to animal rights advocacy. Bardot, now over 80, hopes to live the remainder of her life in quiet service of this cause.

9. Johnny Hallyday

Johnny Hallyday was born in Paris and spent much of his life in the French capital.

This legendary French rock and roll icon was often hailed as the “French Elvis Presley.” With a career lasting more than five decades, Hallyday became a symbol of rock music in the French-speaking world.

His electrifying stage presence, powerful vocals and dynamic performances captivated audiences, earning him the title of “The White Mustang” and establishing him as a cultural phenomenon.

Hallyday’s discography boasts an impressive array of hits, including Que je t’aime (How I Love You) and L’Envie (Desire), showing versatility in various musical genres.

Despite facing controversies and personal challenges, he remained an enduring figure in French music, selling over 110 million records worldwide.

10. Carla Bruni

Carla Bruni, though born in Italy, is a popular French singer-songwriter. Starting out as a supermodel, she transitioned to a musical career by captivating audiences with both her beauty and her voice in her debut album “Quelqu’un m’a dit” (2002).

The title track of her debut album, Quelqu’un m’a dit (Someone Told Me) is a melancholy, tender song that explores themes of love and heartbreak, showing off her lyricism and cementing her as an instant classic.

Further Bruni albums such as “No Promises” (2007), “Little French Songs” (2013) and “French Touch” (2017) showcase her versatility in interpreting classics and crafting original compositions.

Notably, Bruni also served as First Lady of France from 2008 to 2012 after her marriage to then-president Nicolas Sarkozy, continuing her musical pursuits while advocating for various social issues and philanthropic efforts.

11. Mylène Farmer

From Quebec, Canada, Mylène Farmer is a renowned French singer, songwriter and actress. Often hailed as the “Queen of French Pop,” Farmer made her mark on the French music scene with her ethereal voice, provocative lyrics and avant-garde performances.

Her career, which began in the 1980s, has been marked by groundbreaking collaborations with songwriter Laurent Boutonnat, producing iconic hits like Libertine (Libertine) and Sans contrefaçon (Without Counterfeit), the latter of which discusses gender identity, self-expression and the pressure to conform.

Beyond her music, Farmer’s enigmatic persona and visually stunning music videos have contributed to her mystique and enduring popularity. With a string of record-breaking albums, numerous awards, and a dedicated fan base, she pushes artistic boundaries and captivates audiences with her unique blend of sensuality and introspection.

12. Zaz

Zaz is a captivating singer and a vibrant force in contemporary French music, celebrated for her unique blend of jazz, pop and soul.

She burst onto the music scene with her debut album “Zaz” in 2010, quickly capturing hearts with her soulful voice (often compared to the great Édith Piaf) and her vibrant stage presence.

Known for hits like Je veux (I Want) and On ira (We’ll Go), Zaz’s music is characterized by its infectious energy and socially conscious lyrics, echoing themes of freedom, love and empowerment.

Zaz’s commitment to social and environmental causes adds depth to her artistic identity and connects with modern music lovers. With a string of successful albums and a global fanbase, Zaz continues to captivate audiences with her authenticity and artistic innovation today.

13. Stromae

Stromae is from Brussels, Belgium and has become known as a visionary and influential figure in the French-language music scene.

Rising to international prominence with his debut album “Cheese” in 2010, Stromae’s innovative blend of electronic, hip-hop and African rhythms, coupled with his thought-provoking lyrics, garnered attention worldwide.

His breakthrough single, Alors on danse (So We Dance) became a global sensation, marking the beginning of a meteoric rise. This genre-blurring hit blends electronic beats with poignant lyrics that capture the struggles of everyday life and the temporary relief that dancing provides.

Stromae is known for his socially conscious narratives that explore themes like identity, mental health and societal issues. His critically acclaimed second album, “Racine Carrée” (2013), solidified his status as a popular modern French artist.

14. Héloïse Adélaïde Letissier

Letissier is known by a few names in the French music world: Christine and the Queens, Chris and (most recently) Redcar.

This genderfluid singer-songwriter emerged as a transformative force in contemporary pop music with their first studio album, “Chaleur humaine” (2014).

Letissier embodies a fusion of bold pop, electronic and R&B influences and has gained international acclaim for their genre-defying sound and dynamic stage presence.

Letissier’s androgynous persona challenges traditional norms, and their lyrics often explore themes of identity, gender and self-discovery with infectious melodies and profound narratives.

A fearless performer and a vocal advocate for inclusivity, Letissier’s artistic evolution continues to shape the landscape of modern pop, earning them a devoted global fanbase.

15. Angèle

Belgian-born singer, songwriter and actress, Angèle has swiftly risen to prominence in the French and Belgian music scenes. Her music is appreciated for its pop, electronic and R&B influences, as well as its socially conscious topics and lyrics.

Her breakout single La Loi de Murphy (Murphy’s Law) in 2017 marked the beginning of her rise, followed by the critically acclaimed debut album “Brol” (2018), featuring hits like Tout oublier (Forget Everything) and Balance ton quoi (Expose Your What).

Angèle’s music is characterized by catchy melodies, witty lyrics and a fresh approach to contemporary pop. Beyond her musical prowess, she has received notice for her acting in films such as “La Trêve” and “La Famille Bélier.”

Angèle’s work often addresses themes of identity, relationships and societal issues, resonating with a diverse and enthusiastic audience.

Learning French with French Singers

Learn and practice French grammar

If you’re looking to enforce certain grammar points, these singers can help you quite a bit!

Of course, just listening won’t be enough. Here are a few ways that you can use these songs to study key grammar points:

  • Use the song for dictation practice. Listen to the song, writing out the lyrics on a sheet of paper. You will have to rely on your grammatical knowledge and vocabulary to know how most words are spelled.
  • Make it a puzzle. Print out a copy of the song, and use white-out to create a blank where the grammar point you wish to study appears. (Better yet, have a friend do it!) Fill in the blank based on your knowledge of the point, without listening to the song.
  • Put your writing skills to the test. Try to write an additional stanza to continue the story of the song and experiment with using the grammar you’ve learned. Try to stick to the original form and melody as much as possible, so that someone who wasn’t familiar with the song wouldn’t even know that it wasn’t part of the original!

You can also supplement your listening by making use of a French learning program such as FluentU.

FluentU takes authentic videos—like music videos, movie trailers, news and inspiring talks—and turns them into personalized language learning lessons.

You can try FluentU for free for 2 weeks. Check out the website or download the iOS app or Android app.

P.S. Click here to take advantage of our current sale! (Expires at the end of this month.)

FluentU Ad

Music videos on FluentU come with learning tools to help you make sense of the lyrics, like interactive captions and contextual definitions. Hover over or click on the lyrics below to try it out:

Enfin je saurais où je vais

Finally I’d know where I’m going

That example is from another popular Stromae song, and FluentU has plenty of French music videos (and other types of videos) to help you learn everything from French grammar to French culture.

Discover and understand French culture

Culturally speaking, many of these artists can grant you a glimpse of the world of French music. Jacques Brel, for instance, wrote many songs about his origins.

Brel always considered himself to be a Flemish singer who sang in French, and—bearing in mind the clash between the French and Flemish portions of Belgium that continues even today—that makes songs like Bruxelles (Brussels) and Les Flamandes (The Flemish) a good jumping-off point for this topic.

Brel’s song Les Vieux (The Elderly) shows the way that old age brings us closer to death. Pierre Delanoë was inspired by this song to write his Les Vieux Mariés (Old Married Couple), showing how this part of life can still bring happiness. Both songs show different elements of the French cultural approach to growing older, and when compared can offer some interesting insights.

Goldman’s Né en 17 à Leidenstadt (Born in ’17 in Leidenstadt) delves into French post-World War II sentiment. Goldman, who has both Jewish and German origins, explores human nature in this song with a narrator who wonders if he would have acted differently in the period between the two World Wars had he been born in Germany in 1917.

Modern French singers don’t shy away from culturally relevant topics either.

Stromae, for example, discusses absent fathers and broken family structures in Papaoutai and covers the complexities of human relationships and emotional vulnerability in Formidable (Wonderful). In a similar vein, Angèle’s hit Balance ton quoi confronts issues like sexism and societal expectations in the context of France’s #MeToo movement.

Utilize both classic and modern songs

As you venture forth into the world of French music, feel free to go further than merely discovering these 15 singers.

But be warned: Often, modern French singers write lyrics that reflect the casual way that they speak in daily life. Such lyrics are often grammatically incorrect, even if they do reflect the reality of the way French is spoken today.

While modern songs are useful for learning more up-to-date expressions, be wary of using them to practice your grammar! It’s better to know correct French first and then gradually add in slang and grammatical shortcuts.

If you’re a beginner or not too confident with your French grammar, try to stick with older singers, at least at the beginning, because older songs typically have lyrics in grammatically correct French.

If you decide to study the songs of more modern singers, be sure to check that their grammar is correct before using them as a way to learn!


Now that you know 15 of the most famous French singers, who are you going to listen to first?

Try out a few and see who resonates with you most! And of course, happy listening!

And one more thing...

If you like learning French on your own time and from the comfort of your smart device, then I'd be remiss to not tell you about FluentU.

FluentU has a wide variety of great content, like interviews, documentary excerpts and web series, as you can see here:


FluentU brings native French videos with reach. With interactive captions, you can tap on any word to see an image, definition and useful examples.


For example, if you tap on the word "crois," you'll see this:


Practice and reinforce all the vocabulary you've learned in a given video with learn mode. Swipe left or right to see more examples for the word you’re learning, and play the mini-games found in our dynamic flashcards, like "fill in the blank."


All throughout, FluentU tracks the vocabulary that you’re learning and uses this information to give you a totally personalized experience. It gives you extra practice with difficult words—and reminds you when it’s time to review what you’ve learned.

Start using the FluentU website on your computer or tablet or, better yet, download the FluentU app from the iTunes or Google Play store. Click here to take advantage of our current sale! (Expires at the end of this month.)

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