Music has the distinct power of being able to take you to a different place, a different time, a memory infinities away from where you are now. The power of music is universal, it's magic tied deeply to the places that inspired the musicians behind them.
Paris, for one, has inspired artists from all walks of life for years, enticing them with the promises of romantic streets and the stories that they're capable of telling. Paris is a city for lovers, and this kind of love has seeped into modern music and re-imagined versions of the city––just ask the director who compiled Paris, je t'aime.
We've made a list of five songs that have the power to transport you down the streets of the Champs-Élysées, and straight up through the curved hillsides that dominate Montmartre. Strap on your beret, and put these on blast the next time you miss The City of Lights.
Je' taime moi non plus - Serge Gainsbourg and Jane Birkin
This extremely sensual track was received by controversy when it came out in 1969, with Gainsbourg and Birkin blamed for indecency due to the song's overt sexuality: framed as a conversation between two lovers during sex, and with Birkin ending the track with an elongated simulation of orgasmic cries, the song was deemed risqué and banned in several countries. This song is everything sensual about Paris, and everything sensual about Serge Gainsbourg's music: the funky guitar introduction, the way the music seems to flow, Gainsbourg and Birkin's whispered back and forth. If a Parisian bedroom with soft morning pouring through it after a one-night stand was turned into a song, it would be this one.
Quand Vas Tu Rentrer? - Melody's Echo Chamber
A more modern Paris but nonetheless a dreamy one, Melody's Echo Chamber crafts a dreamscape full of movement on this track off her 2012 debut; it feels like riding the above ground metro and being greeted by a shimmering Eiffel Tower in the distance before being unleashed into the neon-lit bars scattered about the Oberkampf district. This one was created for the young people in today's Paris, combing the streets for adventure in a capacity that's no less bohemian than the people running around Paris at 21 years old a few decades back. The song itself beckons a question: when will you come back? Should you choose to answer is entirely up to you, but choose to fantasize, choose to wander about the modern Paris of your wildest dreams and, in the end, the question won't be hard to answer.
Free Man In Paris - Joni Mitchell
Joni Mitchell is no stranger to loneliness or independence; "Free Man In Paris" sees her at her most jovial both musically and lyrically, a world away from the reflective tunes of Blue that made her famous (and made us sob). The chorus is a revelry, and a reversal of the patriarchy in the kind of deliciously, subtly snarky way that only Joni Mitchell could possibly pull off. It's easy to forget, among the rain and the existentialist writers, that Paris is a city vibrant with freedom. This song brings you right into that feeling, and invites you along for a stroll down the Seine. Feel unfettered, feel alive.
Paris Paris - Malcolm McLaren and Catherine Deneuve
The manager of the Sex Pistols was an underrated sonic genius in his own riot, bringing a unique spin on remixes and samples into compelling collections of music. This song, a duet with famous French actress Catherine Deneuve, appears on his Paris concept album, which is rooted in jazz as much as it is the city. This particularly ethereal cut name-drops architectural and intellectual Parisian icons and includes spoken-word French interludes by Deneuve woven throughout what becomes atmospheric romp through the French capital. McLaren rolls everything seductive, musical, cultural, and dreamlike about Paris into one song, and then lets you really be consumed by the world he's so perfectly, subtly captured. When he asks Deneuve to "sing away," she's wistfully unable to, enraptured by sighs and thoughts of the city. Listen to this on repeat and you'll understand.
La vie en rose - Édith Piaf
What kind of list would this be if it didn't include the #1 song people think of when they think of Paris? What could be more iconic than the image of Édith Piaf, the Little Sparrow, with a voice so unmistakably her own, telling a lover that life is pink when she's with him? Truly good love songs never feel melodramatic, and not only is this a love song that has stood––and will continue to stand––the test of time, but it is a celebration of the city of Paris. Try and walk along those streets listening to this and tell us you're not wearing rose-colored glasses.