Tuesday, January 5, 2010

La musique plays “hard to get”

Because it’s hard to simulate French immersion in Spokane, Washington; because it’s sometimes trop difficile to understand lightening-fast spoken French; and, bien sûr, because I love music, I thought finding a French radio station to listen to and buy some music from on the Internet would be a fun and easy way to surround myself with French more often.

The quest has been anything but easy.

I spent several days listening briefly to some 100 stations listed on compendiums of French radio stations. Some I skipped because they were news only (I'm all about news, trust me, but I was looking for music), and most that I thought seemed like they would play the kind of music I want to listen to in general play mostly the music I already listen to—en anglais! It was d'abord maddening, et puis a little disheartening, and then a friend told me that stations in France are required only to play 40 per cent French music.

I did find one station, Rire 100% nouveaux talents, that has cute comedy sketches (good for me, since I’m a comedian in my own mind)—I don’t understand much but it’s good to listen to a little bit.

However, once the laugh track started to grate on my nerves, and I realized I’m often too distracted to listen carefully enough to understand anything but the last word of a sentence (more on that another day!), I resumed my search. I tried stations from Belgium and Canada, but still, I would endure five minutes of commercials en français only to discover that much of the music was English.

Finally, I came across NRJ French, which has a Web radio that plays only French language pop music. Enfin, de rester au courant, I thought! And it has no commercials, save for station identifications.

And I do like it, except for the fact that it seems always to cut off Vanessa Paradis’ song, Il y a, directly in the middle, leaving me hanging for the ending. Add to that the frequent lag between identification of a song, and the actual song being played a ce moment, and it’s proven to be an okay, if not parfait, solution.

Soon, of course, a Francophile music junkie like myself wanted more than to listen to NRJ online. I wanted to buy the music I hear, and play it in my car on my four-hour drives to the city I love, and pretend that the alfalfa fields near Moses Lake are Provincial Lavender fields and the Columbia Gorge at Vantage is vraiment the red cliffs of Rousillon.

Alas, the bubble burst when I went to iTunes. After dutifully noting the names of artists and song titles I managed to glean from NRJ, and searching out and printing the lyrics to some of my favorites, I wanted to buy some albums—or at least favorite singles—to play in my car. Nearly everything current, and my favorite artists, is unavailable via U.S. iTunes, and since I’m in the U.S., I’m not permitted to buy things from the French iTunes site. Even le petit cadeau de Nöel from Gerard de Palmas’ Facebook postings is unavailable to me.

I do understand there are other ways to get music on the Internet, I just prefer to travel the most direct (and least time-consuming) route when possible, and to pay the artists for their work through the normal channels. And, there are, of course, some French-language pop and rock cds for sale on iTunes U.S., just frustratingly not the most current songs, like those I’m listening to on NRJ French.

I will not give up, but the search for good music is never easy, I guess! As Christophe Maê would sing (his music is also unavailable sur U.S. iTunes) Dingue, dingue, dingue, dingue!

Fortunately, I do have at least four fun hours of French music, a la Louise Attaque, Sanseverino, and de Palmas, to transport me from Washington to France dans la voiture this weekend.


  1. I love love love Louise Attaque. I discovered them last time I went to France.

    Things I love that are available on US iTunes:
    --Gregory Lemarchal
    --Coeur de Pirate
    --Olivia Ruiz
    --Louise Attaque, duh
    --Jenifer (they only have 1 CD, her best in my opinion so it's alright)
    --Annie Villeneuve
    --soundtracks to Le Petit Prince and Notre Dame de Paris
    --I love the song "je ne suis qu'une chanson" by Magalie Vae, bought that on iTunes
    --some various Celine Dion in French

    however, I agree with your general statement, they don't have NEARLY enough.

  2. Thanks for sharing your Fav's, Megan