MUSICAL MUSINGS: Not being able to understand the lyrics is why I like French music

This is the first of three installments on foreign music.

I often listen to music and get distracted by the lyrics—they’re either too profound or too stupid to leave the pure tonal quality of the music to sink in.

As a result, I began turning to foreign music. My first exposure was to Country Day alumnus Gustavo Galindo’s Entre la Ciudad y el Mar album.

Eventually, though, I came around to French music.

Having studied French since the first grade, I’m fairly articulate and am able to understand a reasonable number of simple conversations. But the vast majority of French music is far past my threshold of understanding.

Not only is the vocabulary unfamiliar, but sung French sounds nothing like spoken French—at least not to my untrained ear.

Thus, French was the perfect language in which to listen to music—I could understand enough to realize that words were being sung, but not enough to know what exactly was being said.

To start my immersion, I turned to the God of all music-lovers: Spotify. I went to the “Top Lists” section and switched from the U.S. to France.

At first, I was surprised by the distinct absence of French songs. In fact, the beginning of the French “Top 100” list looked exactly like that of the U.S., except in a different order.

But after sufficient scrolling, I finally came across some song titles in French. After listening to a few different artists, I have come up with my favorite French pop singer: Indila.

In many ways, Indila seems like a mix between Selena Gomez (with her classic pop sound and love-based lyrics) and Lana Del Rey (with her strong, raspy vocals).

My favorite Indila songs are “Derniere Danse” (“Last Dance”) and “Tourner Dans Le Vide” (“Turn Into The Empty”) from the album Mini World (she often uses short English phrases or words in her songs—it’s worth listening to “Love Story” just to hear the English-French refrain).

Both of these songs demonstrate what I love about Indila: fantastic music that isn’t outshined by the words.

Of course, this could be simply because I don’t associate the words with any meaning. (In a way, they’re just another instrument, which, ironically, was the original purpose for vocals.) But the quality of purely instrumental tone and rhythm is still superb.

And, even though Indila is considered to be a “pop” artist, her style of pop is much more in the alternative genre. Once again, this observation could just be due to my lack of experience with French pop music, but, nonetheless, it’s remarkable.

Either way, Indila has made it onto my list of favorites. There’s a downside to this, though. I’ve listened to her songs so many times that I know most of the lyrics by heart, defeating the whole purpose of my experiment!

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