I have never felt French up until I moved to England (this is what I caught myself thinking about after getting the email confirmation that my December holiday request had been approved and realised I’d have to go to France). See, I was born in Switzerland – I have a dual nationality – but we moved to France when I was a baby. Frenchness felt like it wasn’t mine, Swissness felt like it wasn’t mine to have.
The main issue arousing from this is the following: what to answer when asked “where are you from?”. Typically, I look around, try to think of a way to avoid answering, realise there is no way out and finally proceed to mumbling something unclear that I hope will quench the thirst for knowledge of the enquirer. Can I legitimately say I am Swiss? Because they certainly won’t make me say I am French.
A lecturer at my previous university once asked me the dreaded question. I answered “I was born in Switzerland then I lived in France”. And guess what the woman did next. She had a follow-up question! “But where is home?”, and “home is here for me now” was not good enough for her, she kept repeating her question; she had that look on her face, the one I make when I think the idiot in front of me is not understanding my simple question. I’ve hated her ever since – not having seen her in about 3 years won’t make me stop.
For a while, no one let me forget that England wasn’t my country. This manifested mostly through the accent; the fact that a non-native speaker had a foreign accent seemed an endless source of amusement – could be replaced with any of the following: surprise/enthusiasm/pleasure (a young man in a bar once asked me to repeat his name a bunch of times “you know, with your accent”).
But since living here, I observed a curious phenomenon: all the French crap I hated, well I have developed a taste for it. Now when I watch a French film, it’s on purpose. I enjoy baguettes and croissants have become something I crave. I’m in love with Saint Exupéry and I tolerate listening to songs with lyrics in French.
So here is a list of 10 songs in French that I started liking in the past few years – not my 10 favourites, as that list is only comprised of Françoise Hardy, Jacques Brel and Georges Brassens. I’m never going home again, but I happily give these little pieces of a culture I learnt to love only when I stepped away from it for your consideration and appreciation.
10 – Les brunes comptent pas pour des prunes – Lio (Pop Model, 1986)
This is a silly song – I think that’s what Lio is known for – about how brunettes are hella cool and fun and spicy, unlike blondes – I didn’t say it, she did.
9 – Ça Plane Pour Moi – Plastic Bertrand (Ça Plane Pour Moi, 1977)
If you’ve been to any bar or disco that tries to be kind of cool and different you have to have heard this one. Once again nothing deep, but so much fun!
8 – Aficionado – BB Brunes (Long Courrier, 2012)
I was a teenager in the noughties in France, so all my female schoolmates liked those boys and so of course I disliked them. But I can’t deny that I love singing along to this one.
7 – KANÉ – Fauve (BLIZZARD, 2013)
The guitar loop coupled with the spoken words really makes an impact. When I first heard this song on the radio, the image painted in the lyrics of a man who seems as beautiful as a planet to his lover stuck with me and I haven’t been able to forget that song since.
6 – La Ceinture – Élodie Frege (Le jeu des 7 erreurs, 2006)
She tells us about her weird love affair over some acoustic guitar, I’m down with that.
5 – Et moi, et moi, et moi – Jacques Dutronc (Et moi, et moi, et moi, 1966)
Jacques confesses he forgets everything and everyone and only cares about himself, but c’est la vie!
4 – Bastien – Charlotte Parfois (Komödie, 2010)
With Charlotte Parfois (which translates as Charlotte Sometimes), we meet Bastien, a gay boy who likes romance, trousers and can’t lie.
3 – Framboise – Boby Lapointe (Avanie et Framboise, 1960)
This one is full of fun puns and naughty word plays, which I believe all songs should have more of. For the film lovers, Framboise was in the soundtrack of Truffault’s Shoot the Piano Player.
2 – Ces gens-là – Jacques Brel (Ces gens-là, 1966)
Brel tells the story of the grim life of a fictional (I assume) family – the grimness reaches its peak with the soup slurping noises – in a first person point of view. It’s all doom and gloom up until Frida makes her stellar appearance with trumpets and enthusiasm.
1 – Tous les garçons et les filles – Françoise Hardy (Tous les garçons et les filles, 1962)
Pretty and moody – just like Françoise -, this song is a classic I cannot get tired of. It’s full of loneliness and loveliness.