French pop music

French pop music

French pop music is the pop music sung in the French language. It is usually performed by singers from France, Belgium, Quebec, or any of the other francophone areas of the world. The target audience is the francophone market (primarily France), which is considerably smaller and largely independent from the mainstream anglophone market.


The first distinct French pop music styles that emerged were the French rock and the yé-yé, which originated in France during the 1960s. They were influenced by the American rock & roll of the 1950s and was Anglo-American in style. In the early days, this style of French pop music was easily distinguishable from the earlier category of French music called chanson in English. Eventually the early French pop music and the chanson styles crossed over and combined, forming the French pop music of today.

Language barrier

French pop singers usually do not cross over to become a mainstream anglophone pop singer and vice versa, largely due to the language barrier. A notable exception is Jane Birkin from the United Kingdom, who became a leading French pop singer during the yé-yé era of the 1960s. A more recent example is Tina Arena from Australia, who released an all French album, Un Autre Univers, a big hit of 2006, in France.

Radio in France

French pop music can be heard on radio stations in France, such as RTL 2, Europe 2,Radio Nova, Chérie FM, and others. (There are francophone radio stations outside of France, but the ones in France are the most influential with respect to French pop music.) Besides French pop music, these radio stations typically play mainstream pop music (in English) as well as Latin pop, Italian pop, and African pop depending on the station.

Radio stations in France are required to play at least 40% of their songs in French, during prime hours. France's "Pelchat amendment" to the "1994 Broadcasting Reform Act" is the law which requires this.

There are studies which correlate radio station play-time with album sales. And that seems to have been one of the motivations to pass this law, for the benefit of protecting the French music industry and their sales of French pop music. Without this law, Anglo-American music (songs in English) would have surely overshadowed French pop music.

French pop music artists

Sylvie Vartan


* David Looseley, "Popular Music in Contemporary France: Authenticity, Politics, Debate", Berg Publishers, 2004 (ISBN 1-85973-636-X)
* Hugh Dauncey & Steve Cannon (editors), "Popular Music in France from Chanson to Techno: Culture, Identity, and Society", Ashgate Publishing, 2003 (ISBN 0-7546-0849-2)

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