Bunch Guide to French Pop and Yé-Yé for Kids!
A little bit twee with a dash of sophistication, the ’60s French Pop movement known as ‘Yé-yé’ is a natural selection for young kids. With clean sounds and instantly catchy melodies, it’s bound to get your family up and jumping on the dance floor (or the living room shag carpet).
Yé-yé is fun enough to appeal to the under 12 set, but it also has serious continental chops, so you’ll get into the swing of things too. Here’s how.
What To Wear
Of course, dressing to impress is optional for musical enjoyment, but if you’re planning a more formal dance party, getting the kids to wear stripes and berets is always fun. Mini skirts and barettes will also do the trick, and bonus points for knee socks or out-and-out slacks.
The Dance Steps
The usual suspects of 1960s pop steps will work for these songs (think the Mashed Potato and the Twist), but getting creative is always encouraged. Start with a simple box step (or even just a side-step) and add your own zany arm movements to go with the songs. Try monkey arms with Serge Gainsbourg and Jane Birkin’s “Orang-Outan“, or cat-eye “vees” with “Laisser Tomber Les Femmes”.
The great thing about yé-yé is that there is so much good stuff to choose from, and even the bad stuff is kind of fun.
Les Surfs, “A Present Tu Peux Aller”
This cover of Dusty Springfield’s “I Only Want to Be With You” by Les Surfs adds their signature smooth vocals and bang-on rhythm, complete with a full-French translation. While The Surfs weren’t actually from France (they’re the eldest six kids of a family in Madagascar), their performances were much-loved across the continent, and it’s pretty easy to see why.
Les Parisiennes, “L’Argent Ne Fait Pas Le Bonheur”
Money might not make you happy, but the choral vocals of Les Pariesiennes over a big-band brassy orchestra will. This big-hit girl group also had an earlier chart-topper, “Il Fait Trop Beaux Pour Travailler“, that’s also a real winner.
France Gall, “Laisse Tomber Les Filles”
If you ever got into April March’s “Chick Habit”, then you’ll probably recognize this tune. But way back in the day, the song was originally a hit from one of yé-yé’s leading ladies, France Gall. Bonus points for this super-endearing video.
Serge Gainsbourg and Bridget Bardot, “Comic Strip”
If you’ve got a comic book fan on your hands, this song is for you. With Serge Gainsbourg’s classically suave vocals crooning about being a super hero in a comic strip, and Brigitte Bardot’s more-than-enthusiastic whizzes, bops and bams! this song is sure to be a hit with any crime-fighting kid.
Gillian Hills, “Zou Bisou Bisou”
Jessica Paré recently brought this song back with aplomb on season five of Mad Men, but there’s something insanely catchy about the original version, too. Best? The lyrics are really easy to memorize.
Françoise Hardy, “Tous Les Garcons”
Hardy’s faraway, approaching-ethereal vocals are perfect for a pre-bedtime slow dance. Best? This song is so chill, it could even be used as lullaby material.