A French music fan from Spain (SPAIN!) recently commented on an old post. The commenter was hoping to explore my blog to find some new music to buy. I’m all for helping other people spend their money! So, in honor of this person who may or may not ever actually read my blog again, I bring you:
My top five female francophone singers (in no particular order)
After five seasons of the Quebecois TV singing competition, Star Academie, season one remains the most successful, producing 4 platinum-selling artists who share two Junos and 8 Felix Awards among them (the Canadian and Quebecois versions of the Grammys, respectively). When it aired in 2003, I followed the show online, and I was rooting for Marie-Elaine Thibert. She came in second. I was mad. Fast forward nine years, and it’s the other three contestants – such as fifth place Annie – that I prefer. Annie sang the French version of the official Vancouver 2010 Olympic song, “J’imagine/I Believe,” but if you live in America you probably never heard it. (FYI: Annie’s identical twin sister, Suzie, competed against her on Star Academie, but she’s not nearly as popular or as good.)
Song to check out: Ce soir, Tomber à l’eau, En silence
Lara is a vocal powerhouse who ought to be giving Celine Dion a run for her money, but her three English language albums never amounted to very much. The dance hit, “I Will Love Again,” peaked at #32 on the Billboard Hot 100, and that was the last we Americans heard from her. Internationally, the multilingual superstar has sold more than 18 million albums.
Songs to check out: Si Tu M’aimes, Leila, Tout
As I mentioned in my concert review from March, Isabelle has recently gotten a little too country for my taste. I like country music, but I prefer Isabelle’s older, somewhat poppier music. She’s not a vocal gymnast like Celine or Lara. Her voice is more mellow and even her pop stuff is more folk-y. It’s the kind of music that makes me want to curl up under a blanket and drink some tea – especially her winter-inspired album Chansons pour les mois d’hiver.
Songs to check out: Parle-moi, Je t’oublierai je t’oublierai, Ton Histoire
Marie-Mai came in third in the aforementioned first season of Star Academie, but losers have never had it so good. Her first and third albums went platinum, she performed in the Vancouver Olympics closing ceremony, she sold out a performance with the Montreal Symphony Orchestra, and the Canadian Olympic Committee recently sent her to London to perform for their athletes. She recently signed with Warner France to make a go of it in Paris, but her English is impeccable, so I think it’s only a matter of time before she sets her sights on conquering the US.
Songs to check out: Emmene-Moi, Jet-lag (a bilingual duet with Simple Plan), and just about anything from Version 3.0 – that whole album rocks.
Nolwenn was the winner of the second season of France’s Star Academy. (See how in Quebec they frenchify it to “Academie” and in France they say, “Whatever. It’s not like ‘star’ is a French word anyway.” I could write plenty about that, but I digress…) Nolwenn has a very mellow, ethereal sort of voice that I normally don’t care for. I can’t really stand her influences, artists like Mylene Farmer and Kate Bush, but somehow on Nolwenn, the sound is not as extreme and really quite pleasant. In fact, Dutch researchers have determined that listening to Nolwenn’s music can prevent elderly people from falling! Her most recent album, Bretonne, is an hommage to her birthplace, Brittany, France. It’s a compilation of classic Celtic folksongs, sung in French, Breton, and English. It’s hardly the pop fare you’d expect from the winner of a television talent show, but it’s her best-selling album and one of highest all-time of any Star Academy alum.
Songs to check out: La Jument de Michao, Nolwenn Ohwo, Cassée
Honorable Mention: Coeur de Pirate, Tina Arena, Chimène Badi, France d’Amour