Storming the French Charts

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Ah, Bastille Day. The annual French commemoration of the storming of the Bastille - which took place on July 14, 1789 - is generally celebrated here in New York with kitchy games of pétanque, too many glasses of pastis and half-hearted attempts at putting that 7th grade French vocabulary to good use (“merci!” “ouais!” “shampooing!”). But here at Soundcheck, we’re gearing up for Bastille Day this year by taking a good hard look at the singles that have recently stormed - and conquered - the top of the French charts. (Check out the full playlist here.)

(Source: Syndicat National de L’Edition Phonographique, July 2-8) 

1. Carly Rae Jepsen, “Call Me Maybe.”

Seriously, Carly Rae? You had to rule this chart, too? But perhaps we shouldn’t be so surprised - Carly Rae hails from the Francophone nation of Canada, after all - and her hit has also dominated in far-flung places like Australia, the Czech Republic, Ireland and the make-believe land of Sesame Street. Check out this video for the full French translation of the song - alors appelez-moi, peut-être?

2. Tacabro, “Tacata”

Okay, good, something that we're unfamiliar with. According to Wikipedia, Tacabro is a Sicilian duo comprised of two DJs/record producers. According to my eyeballs, they’re terrible dancers and had to bring in sassy Cuban artist Martínez Rodríguez to take center stage on this track - which sounds like pretty standard frantic Euro club fare. Don’t worry if you don’t speak Spanish or Italian - all you need to know is the word “Tacata.” I made our saintly intern, Alex Abnos, count it - "Tacata" is said, sung, or rapped 61 times in the 3:34 song. That's an average of about 17.4 TPM (Tacatas Per Minute).

3. Flo Rida, “Whistle”

This dirty, dirty little ditty is currently charting at #12 in the U.S., but it’s managed to sink its claws in at #3 in France. Perhaps because non-native English speakers aren’t as offended by lyrics like “Everywhere I go/My whistle ready to blow” and “Show me your perfect pitch/You got it my banjo.” Earl Scruggs just rolled over in his grave.

4. Shy'm, “Et Alors”

Finalement! A song that’s actually in French. (Oh my god, it starts with whistling... no!!!) “Et Alors” translates to “So What?,” and from what we can gather this song is basically about how the 26-year-old Paris native and her friends wear whatever the *^#% they want, including “quirky boyish derby shoes.” This is the world’s fashion capital, after all.

5. Birdy, “Skinny Love”

You might have seen this one flying around YouTube - it's Bon Iver’s “Skinny Love,” covered by young British singer Jasmine van den Bogaerde, aka Birdy. It's a super depressing song to be hanging out at number 5 in the middle of July, but this is the country that invented the word “mélodrame.” So, there you go.


Perfect for your Bastille Day fête: our playlist of songs made up of the most recent Top 20 tracks from France (below).