French commercial radio – a real earful

4 Nov

French radio is obliged by law to comply to a 40% French song ratio. This supposedly promotes French national identity in a world dominated by big Anglophone superstars.

How many of you have heard of last summer’s huge hits by Nadiya, Superbus or rap collective Sexion D’Assault? Didn’t think so… there’s probably a reason. Much of French commercial music is shockingly bad. Yet these songs are still massively overplayed on popular Parisian radio stations such as NRJ or Voltage.

Of course there’s David Guetta, definitely in the running for most famous Frenchman du jour. But as a DJ featuring massive American stars who sing in English on his records, he hardly counts.

It seems the French have found a new way to get around this law. They are well aware of the fact most of their audience want to hear popular songs from beyond the hexagon. Therefore: the Franglais blend is born.

Listen to this – the French version of Jason Derulo’s ‘Watcha Say’.

Some verse and chorus parts have been badly dubbed by a French woman who seems to confuse singing with whining. Jason’s still chimes in every now and again though, hooray.

This is sadly a growing trend on Parisian radio. Another more successful example is:

Lily Allen featuring Ours sounded horribly wrong at first. The lyrics are very longwinded and have little to do with the original ones. It grows on you… but Ours should be making his own songs catchier instead of riding on Lily’s coattails.

Innovation and quality content is seriously lacking on most of the radio stations in the Paris area. Compared to the myriad of shows and music range available on British radio, it’s repetitive and uninspiring.

So I say forget the law, or at least play some decent French music.

Opinions welcome.

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8 Responses to “French commercial radio – a real earful”

    • Kate Thomas November 18, 2010 at 5:29 pm #

      Interesting article, thanks! Never heard of those bands, going to have a listen now. But I agree that Air and Phoenix have done well for themselves by choosing to sing in English. J’avoue par contre qu’il faudrait en theorie songer a ‘defendre la chanson francaise’ mais personnellement je m’y connais pas trop… And what I do hear on the radio puts me off.

      Do you have any good recommendations? Prove me wrong, haha.

      Planning on writing a post about how the French are obsessed with watching things in Version Originale soon, so it ties in with that!

  1. Ruth Dawson November 18, 2010 at 6:00 pm #

    Really interesting post – never knew English language music was so popular in France!

  2. Sasha from the North November 18, 2010 at 6:02 pm #

    Nice blog! I look forward to reading more of your witty articles. I had no idea that French music had become so bad since I left. Mixing languages make it sound so cheap…
    Also definitely do not go at night on Canal St Martin, there’s a bunch of prostitutes and drugs going around…

  3. Lauriane November 18, 2010 at 6:21 pm #

    I don’t think that this is a problem specific to France, in the sense that in many non English-speaking countries, the younger generations tend to listen to music in English, for example in Germany. I don’t know what the radio situation is in Germany however, but certainly forcing people to listen to music produced in France when this isn’t necessarily what is most popular seems absurd. On the other hand, some people would never listen to anything French were that not the case, myself included. One of the reasons is that people do not identify with music in French, which regardless of style, is deemed “ringard” or unimaginative as if often imitates English music in a less successful way, as your examples prove only too well. Perhaps if artists made more use of their creativity, this would encourage interest in the French music scene.

  4. Mark Cardwell November 18, 2010 at 6:25 pm #

    There’s a great connection between Malian music and France, e.g Rokia Traoré and Vieux Farka Touré, Boubacar Traoré

    I have no idea how much they are played on the radio in France though…the amount they are played over here suffers a lot from being put in the ‘world’ music category (but that is a separate argument in itself!)

    • Kate Thomas November 24, 2010 at 9:26 pm #

      I’ve sadly never heard of them – very possibly because of my own lack of musical knowledge, but I also highly doubt it would be considered mainstream enough to play on the radio. There is a set list of about fourty songs max which get played over and over, and not just on the ‘hit’ radio stations! It’d be great to have some variety like that.

  5. Natalie November 24, 2010 at 9:51 pm #

    I think this is very true! I think it is a good idea to still play french music (we all know how much the french love and cling onto their culture) but I dont think transforming well known english/american songs is the right way to do this. All it causes is irritation and me changing the radio station! Also it is a bit sad that some french artists have to ride on the back of knew hit songs for people to listen to their music, they should have fans for their own songs, not have to ‘steal’ them from other bands!

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