Listening to old French classics is fun, but it can get tiring after a while.

Sometimes you just want to let loose to a dance club hit or relax with some indie tunes.

Better yet if you can learn French while you’re at it.

So you’ve come to the right place to learn French with songs that you’ll love listening to.

And we won’t simply suggest new French songs for your playlist.

After all, they wouldn’t be much help if you had no idea what French level they worked for, what vocabulary you could learn from them or how they could boost your French cultural knowledge.

That’s why every song in this list comes with a helpful description of what to listen for in the lyrics as well as key vocabulary and phrases to pay attention to.

So let’s get listening! But first, a little advice.
 

How to Learn More from French Songs

You don’t need to just read French song lyrics with a dictionary beside you. In fact, for many of the contemporary songs below–even the beginner-friendly ones—that won’t always work. Fortunately there’s a unique online tool that’s actually designed to teach you French with music.

FluentU provides music videos (along with many other types of authentic French videos) that come with built-in interactive subtitles, flashcards and even practice sessions that are tailored to your specific needs. You can click on any word in the subtitles for an instant definition, grammatical information and example sentences.

That way, you learn new words naturally in real French contexts as you watch and listen.

The videos are organized by genre and level so it’s easy to find the ones that work for you. Best of all, just like your favorite tunes, you can take FluentU anywhere with the mobile apps for iOS and Android.

Learn French with 20 Modern, Meaningful Songs You’ll Love

1. “Ta fête” (“Your party”) by Stromae

Level: Intermediate

What you learn: A common colloquial expression related to the word “party” (fête)

Stromae is a Belgian musician who you’ve probably heard of before. He took the world by storm with his danceable, intense songs in French that often criticize societal norms and expectations—and he wrote them all himself. In particular, the song “Ta Fête” is a big wordplay around the concept of partying.

That’s because in French, the small addition of a reflexive pronoun—in this case, “te“—to an expression can completely change its meaning.

While “tu fais la fête” (“you do the party”) literally means the person is partying and enjoying their time, “je te fais la fête” (“I do the party to you”) means “to bash you, to give you what’s coming to you, to give you a good scolding.”

The song is, therefore, an ironic take on nightlife, partying, living life selfishly and a group of people disapproving of the lifestyle and wanting to punish them. The slow rhythm of the song with short sentences makes it easier to digest for intermediate learners!

Useful French expressions in this song:

2. “Hanoï Café” by Bleu Toucan

What you learn: A short song you’ll quickly be able to know by heart

Sometimes music in French can get overwhelming when lyrics are overcrowded, fast and filled with slang. This is where “Hanoï Café” comes in: a mix of indie and electronic music, providing an upbeat, summery tune to dance and sing along to easily.

The song is literally composed of two paragraphs that repeat themselves, so it isn’t too hard to keep up with the lyrics. A great choice to go for when you need something accessible that isn’t children’s content!

Useful French expressions in this song:

3. “Sapés comme jamais” (“Dressed like never before”) by Maître Gims

Level: Advanced

What you learn: Several references to partying, clothing brands and African cultures

Maître Gims, the French musician of Congolese origin, has conquered a whole new style by his own right. Blending hip hop with typical African dance rhythms, he inspired many other descendants of Congolese parents to try their luck in music and be seen.

This particular song is about getting dressed like never before to conquer the dance floor! It’s mostly fit for advanced French learners who don’t feel intimidated by a fast rhythm and lots of references to brands and public figures that aren’t typically accessible at first listen.

Finally, Gims finishes the song by mentioning several French-speaking African cities! Can you identify them?

Useful French expressions in this song:

4. “Je te promets” (“I promise you”) by Zaho

Level: Intermediate

What you learn: How to use the expression “would like” in French

Some things just cannot be promised. That’s what Algerian-Canadian musician Zaho sings about in this touching tune about getting back together, fighting again and not being able to foresee a stable future.

However, she still mentions everything both her and her partner would like to see happen, although nothing can be certain. Because “Je te promets” has a slow rhythm, clear pronunciation and uses vocabulary mostly related to emotions, dreams and relationships, it’s suitable for intermediate learners—and a perfect excuse to practice the expression “I would like” (“j’aimerais”).

Useful French expressions in this song:

5. “Demain c’est toi” (“Tomorrow it’s you”) by Zaz

Level: Intermediate

What you learn: The simple present tense

Zaz is an unavoidable influence in French music by now, with her unique voice and alternative tunes. Although her most famous song is probably ” (“We will go”), “Demain c’est toi” is an equally touching song about empathy, compassion, standing up and being vulnerable to others, even if they’re strangers to us.

The lyrics can seem complex, as some of the verbs aren’t used in everyday life, but its rhythm is friendly to language learners. Additionally, most of the verbs used are in the simple present tense, making it easy for you to get familiar with more verbs in this very common tense.

Useful French expressions in this song:

6. “On était beau” (“We were beautiful”) by Louane

Level: Beginner to lower-intermediate

What you learn: Vocabulary about emotions, the city and routine

Young French singer and actress Louane rose to fame after winning a César Award for her role as Paula in the French film “La Famille Bélier” (“The Bélier Family”). In “On était beau,” she reveals how obsessively she keeps thinking of her former lover with whom she shared many meaningful moments.

While walking the city, she almost cannot believe her relationship is truly over and says: “On était beau, pourtant on accélérait sans freins / On s’aimait trop pour s’aimer bien” (“We were beautiful, but we were accelerating without breaks / We loved each other too much to love each other well”).

The reason the song is so friendly to beginners and lower-intermediate French learners is that it’s quite repetitive and simple in its structure.

It also mentions several words we use in everyday life, from places in the city to common vocabulary: un soir (an evening), le brouillard (the fog) or Je me réveille (I wake up), for example.

Useful French expressions in this song:

7. “Folie arcadienne” (“Arcadian madness”) by Arcadian

What you learn: Vocabulary about music

When you’re having one of those days in which all you need is positivity, good vibes, great music and a relaxing sunset, the French and Swiss group Arcadian has prepared something just for you. “Folie arcadienne” is a feel-good summer tune that invites you to walk the hipster corners of Paris with the band members, getting to know its colorful spots and enjoying the river Seine.

The lyrics are filled with references to music, beats, instruments and dance. A fun way to bring some life and rhythm into your French vocabulary!

Useful French expressions in this song:

8. “Ego” by Willy William

Level: Intermediate

What you learn: The imperative (command form)

Willy William is likely to have made an appearance on your playlist more than once. “Ego” has become a hit on the dance floor due to its vibrance and creative rhythm, but the narrative is rather serious. It’s focused on ego, vanity, superficiality and living in a bubble where you’re always the best, until you realize you don’t want that reality anymore.

Luckily, since Willy William gives several commands in this song, this is the perfect occasion to get comfortable with the imperative in French. The song is also somewhat repetitive and simple in its structure, making it easier for intermediate learners.

Useful French expressions in this song:

9. “On s’endort” (“We fall asleep”) by Willy William feat. Keen’V

Level: Lower-intermediate

What you learn: Vocabulary related to sleep

In this mystical take on sleep and dreams, Willy William comes back in partnership with Keen’V to sing about insomnia, being restless and needing some hours of sleep! What happens when we visit the other side?

Although the song is upbeat, danceable and intense, the lyrics are sung at a moderate pace, so it becomes easier for lower-intermediate learners to understand some key vocabulary and be able to sing along with the repetitive chorus.

How many words can you spot that have to do with sleep and dreams?

Useful French expressions in this song:

10. “Le vide” (“The void”) by Slimane

Level: Beginner to lower-intermediate

What you learn: Describing a negative place and the way things used to be

In “Le vide,” French singer of Algerian descent Slimane sings about loss, missing a loved one who’s gone and longing for what used to be. Spaces that were once associated with celebration, laughter, happiness and love, now seem empty, stripped of meaning and lonely without the presence of his family member.

However, the message of the song is clear: the only answer is to keep dancing, keep living fully and continue enjoying the little things in life like it’s the last day!

The fact that the song is simple in the way it addresses such complex feelings makes it approachable for beginners, too.

Useful French expressions in this song:

11. “Basique” (“Basic”) by Orelsan

Level: Intermediate

What you learn: Informal French words and constructions

French rapper and songwriter Orelsan isn’t afraid to tell us the way it is—he even starts his song by calling us dumb (oops! We forgive you Orelsan, as you’ll help us practice French pretty soon).

In this short but practical song, he explains basic facts of life that he believes everybody should know by now, hence the title “Basique” (“Basic”). His opinions are mostly related to society, politics and culture, and a great tool to help us get familiar with French being used in a more colloquial manner.

While the statements themselves might be difficult due to the use of slang and political references, his pronunciation is still clear. If not for anything else, you’ll certainly learn the words simple and basique after so much repetition!

Useful French expressions in this song:

12. “J’ai cherché” (“I searched”) by Amir

What you learn: The passé composé

 is regularly used in French to talk about past actions. You’ll mostly use a conjugated form of the verb avoir (to have) and a past participle, although (to be) instead.

French-Israeli singer Amir Haddad represented France at Eurovision in 2016 with the song “J’ai cherché,” which tells us about the human search for understanding, happiness and meaning after pain. The perfect song to practice talking about past experiences!

Useful French expressions in this song:

13. “Est-ce que c’est ça?” (“Is this it?”) by M

Level: Advanced

What you learn: Practice the structure of questions

Matthieu Chedid, known by his stage name -M-, is a French rockstar who loves getting creative with his music videos, lyrics and topics. In “Est-ce que c’est ça?” -M- asks himself whether this is all there is to love.

It seems the singer is disappointed with what he found, and somehow longs for more, as he can’t seem to find a connection.

Don’t be fooled by the fact that the song is helpful for spotting questions: it’s quite demanding and challenging in terms of vocabulary, including terms like essoufflé (out of breath), s’écrouler (to collapse) and l’effigie (effigy).

Up for a challenge?

Useful French expressions in this song:

14. “Pays imaginaire” (“Imaginary country”) by Polo & Pan

Level: Intermediate

What you learn: The passé composé and describing places

The French electronic music duo Polo & Pan started creating music in 2014 and gave us “Pays imaginaire,” a song that inspires us to think about dreams, imagination, alternative realities and a happy place to go to.

While the first half of the song focuses on describing past actions using the passé composé, the second half describes a wonderful, peaceful place of love and contact with nature, giving you plenty of vocabulary for a challenge.

Useful French expressions in this song:

15. “Tourner dans le vide” (“Spin in the void”) by Indila

Level: Advanced

What you learn: How to express romantic feelings in a complex way

French singer and songwriter Indila is no stranger to the diversity of cultures around the world, and in fact calls herself a “child of the world”—she’s of Algerian, Egyptian, Indian and Cambodian descent, and the influence of these cultures in her singing style is clear. She often creates intense songs about forbidden relationships, desperation, hungry love and mysterious characters.

This makes her the perfect artist to listen to when you want to expand your vocabulary related to emotional states and complex feelings. However, be wary that her songs are fit for an advanced level, as she uses colorful language and adjectives.

Useful French expressions in this song:

16. “Rien n’est parfait” (“Nothing is perfect”) by Tal

Level: Upper-beginner to intermediate

What you learn: Using negation in a more complex way and encouraging/motivating others

Have you ever wanted to comfort or encourage somebody in French, but felt your vocabulary was way too weak to be able to do so? Did you have to resort to English to be able to be supportive? This song by Israeli-French singer Tal is full of colorful language related to giving support, providing motivation and helping somebody get back on their feet.

Additionally, “Rien n’est parfait” contains different types of negation. Do you remember the ?

Useful French expressions in this song:

17. “Requiem” by Alma

What you learn: How to talk about the passage of time in a complex way

Okay, so you can easily use time keywords like demain, matin, l’après-midi or hier. But time can get way more complex in its ways: sometimes we want to talk about nostalgia or our awareness of how quickly days pass by.

French singer Alma took the song “Requiem” to the Eurovision Song Contest in 2017 with this topic in mind. Not only is her pronunciation easy to understand, but the music video is also a must-watch.

Who doesn’t like looking at Paris’ wonderful monuments and street corners?

Useful French expressions in this song:

18. “La vie est belle” (“Life is beautiful”) by Nassi

Level: Intermediate to advanced

What you learn: How to talk about the struggles of everyday life

Sometimes life brings us serious problems and struggles, and the last thing we want to hear is that “life is beautiful,” “you just need a positive attitude” or “just stay optimistic.”

Nassi addresses this specific feeling of disappointment, frustration and irony towards how life turned out and how overthinking can’t always be avoided, especially when you’re not in a position of privilege.

Pay attention to the lyrics: you’ll notice several daily problems mentioned from beginning to end!

Useful French expressions in this song:

19. “Comme dab” (“As usual”) by Vitaa

What you learn: Using the expression “on + verb

On is difficult to translate from French to English because of its many meanings. Depending on the context, it can mean “we,” “one,” “people in general” or “someone.”

But wait, what about nous? While nous (we) is still used by French speakers, on has taken over, perhaps because it’s slightly easier to conjugate and can be used to talk about impersonal situations more comfortably.

For example, nowadays you’d hear a French person say “On est mariés” more often than “Nous sommes mariés” (“We are married”), the latter being a translation you would often find in language manuals. Notice that this isn’t teenage slang—even adults use it too, so it’s a good idea to get familiar with the structure.

Useful French expressions in this song:

20. “J’ai demandé à la lune” (“I asked the moon”) by Indochine

Level: Upper-beginner to intermediate

What you learn: Reported speech and talking about what others told you

How can you say “she told me that,” “I asked her if” or “We told each other that…” in French? You’re about to find out!

In “J’ai demandé à la lune,” iconic French rock band Indochine sing about a mysterious love, talking to the moon in expectation and needing some answers.

It’s the perfect occasion to practice learning new ways of reporting what’s been said!

Useful French expressions in this song:

Hopefully, this list has given you some ideas on how to revamp your French playlists. Now, go rock your own world with some awesome new songs to learn French!

If you liked this post, something tells me that you’ll love FluentU, the best way to learn French with real-world videos.

This content was originally published here.

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