A child of the 80s, I grew up with new wave music. I loved it then, and I love it even more now.
When I attended junior high in the early 90s, my first French teacher started every class by playing a few songs from one of her old records for us. Most of the stuff on heavy rotation was awful (I remember hearing this particularly terrible song about 8,000 times), except for Indochine. I loved them despite the fact that my hopelessly dorky teacher did, too.
A few years ago, I rediscovered Indochine on iTunes, and I found myself again adoring them.
Over the past year or so, a question repeatedly occurred to me: who are the other icons of French new wave? Surely Indochine must be just the tip of a vast and mighty iceberg. Yet the only other quasi-new wave French song I had heard apart from the Indochine catalogue is Ça Plane Pour Moi. I began a quest for the other gems that heretofore never made their way across the Atlantic to my American ears.
What I discovered is that, sadly, there are not many gems after all. Whereas the 80s were a time of utter magic for American and British music across several genres, the era did not seem to treat the French nearly as well, at least in terms of pop. I did copious digging to find French new wave and cold wave songs that stand the test of time and sound as great today as they did back then. Unfortunately, most of what I listened to was tepid at best; banal, outdated, and embarrassing at worst. (Though the videos – and dancing and fashion therein – were often pitch-perfect, highly enjoyable parodies of themselves. Case in point.)
But I did find five songs that I truly love, which I hereby present for your listening (and viewing) pleasure.
Taxi Girl: Paris. I love this song because it sounds great but also because it captures exactly how I felt about Paris when I arrived. I LOL’ed at the lyrics. (“C’est Paris, et à Paris y’a rien à faire, juste marcher dans les rues…et attendre, attendre qu’il fasse un peu plus chaud…Oh, Paris…Tu sais comment j’écris ton nom ? P-A-R-I-S…Non, non, non, non, non Paris, ça s’épelle M-E-R-D-E.” 😂😂😂)
Les Rita Mitsouko: Les Amants.
Polyphonic Size: Mother’s Little Helper
Les Fils de Joie: Adieu Paris. Beware – the lyrics to this one are really bleak.
Desireless: Voyage Voyage
If you know of any other good ones, please let me know! I would love to give them a listen.
P.S. Indochine has a new album out this year, and I like a lot of it. “2033” especially recaptures the old magic.