Majors and Minors: Fauve to French Touch with Matt

This is Matthew Jourlait, a French-American-Canadian first-year, sharing his insight into music today in France. He plans to major in international relations. He played the piano for nine years, and his favorite composer is Bach.

Haruka (H): What is music in France like today? What genre, and which artist, is most popular right now?

Matt (M): It’s heavily dominated by American music. France is a western country after all, and the American influence is also reflected in movies, magazines. There are a lot of French rock stars and French Canadian performers such as Celine Dion who are internationally known. The older generation listens to them, but the younger generation doesn’t. A modern classic-type, high-quality artist is Christine and the Queens, which could be likened to London Grammar.

A lot of more recent French music is highly commercialized like it is in America. For instance, “The Voice” is becoming increasingly popular, and there are a lot of stars that emerge from that show. Fauve is a musical genre that is a mixture of spoken word, rap and poetry, which many people listen to. “Fun Radio” is a station that a lot of people tune into for club music. Many enjoy electronic music, but there are also people who don’t think electronic qualifies as a musical genre.

French touch is a popular music genre that’s similar to the genre chill house here, which has a club feel to the music. Parties [in France] are structured around spending time with people and aren’t as crazy as the parties here. You’d find that at a concert or club [in France]. French touch is popular due to musical nationalism, so to speak: a preference driven by the pushback against American musical dominance.

French rap is also prevalent. A lot of rappers like to present themselves as having come from lower-income backgrounds. One of the famous rappers is Booba. He is a bit hypocritical, though, since he sells himself as having struggled in poverty but in reality comes from a region called Sèvres, an upper-class-dominated region right outside of Paris. Lyrics of rap pieces often talk about struggles of immigration. Gang violence is a huge part of the areas where those who struggle live; artists have been arrested for illegally using weapons in music videos. French rap is similar to American rap, but there’s some Arabian influence in the melody. Maître Gims is a famous rapper.

H: How, if in any way, do you find French music different from other music you’ve encountered?

M: A lot of French music carries social messages; French rap discusses social issues rather than money. I’m beginning to see this emphasis in American music too. While there is significant use of profanity in French rap, lyrics are thoroughly deliberated. I think that the lyrical side of French music is high quality, but often modern musical production isn’t at the highest standard.

H: Is there a tune that everyone knows in France?

M: “Sapés Comme Jamais” by Maître Gims is well-known.