Paris has a strong reputation in the western world as a city of light, love, and culture. For many, it’s a dream destination for both travel and residency. It is a beautiful and magical city that’s hard to put into words. But what better medium to try than in song? In this article, we’ll go over 27 of the best songs about the city of Paris.
1. L’Accordéoniste – Edith Piaf
Edith Piaf is a name you’re going to see on this list several times. Her work has produced some of the best French songs of all time, with several entries being directly about the city of Paris. L’Accordéoniste would be given to her all the way back in 1940, giving a potent and beautiful illustration of life in Paris as a whole. It eventually also became one of her first (of many) hit songs.
2. J’ai Deux Amours – Josephine Baker
American expats that can afford it will often head to the city of light for their retirement. J’ai Deux Amours or “I have two loves” was Josephine Baker’s play on her dual status within the city. It became her home, though it was an adopted one. It’s become something of an anthem for expats living in the city who have found a place they love to spend their lives.
3. La Vie En Rose – Edith Piaf
La Vie en Rose isn’t just one of the best songs about Paris, it’s one of the best French songs of all time. It doesn’t explicitly talk about the city, it speaks more to the love embodied by the city, hence why it became so popular among Parisians since its release decades ago. We see love and the world the same way, through rose-tinted glasses, at least until something shatters the way we look at things. The song encourages you to see the beauty in things and the exciting side of life while you can.
4. Paris – Lana Del Rey
Paris didn’t make it onto Lana Del Rey’s second album, but it was eventually leaked online and loved by fans. It talks about how her relationship is struggling and how life is wearing them down, proposing a move to Paris and the fast-paced lifestyle that would follow as the solution to all their issues and boredom.
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5. Les Champs-Elysées – Joe Dassin
Les Champs-Elysées by Joe Dassin is one of the most recognizable songs about the city of Paris, but it might take until the chorus that you realize you know it. The song’s title is based on an avenue in Paris of the same name that happens to be world-famous for its beauty, shops, cafes, and bustling culture. It’s a celebration of one of the most important and well-known streets in Paris.
6. Paris – The Chainsmokers
The Chainsmokers is a band that uses Paris as a metaphor in their songs. For them, it’s a symbol of escaping their own problematic lives. It is a fantasy destination that is more than perfect for running to in an attempt to get away from the monotony and pain of everyday life that you feel stuck in
7. April In Paris – Freddy Martin
April in Paris was recorded in the 1930s, but it would go on to become a jazz standard. Freddy Martin popularized this tune in 1934, but Doris Day would breathe new life into it nearly 20 years later. Almost all the big names in jazz have performed or recorded it at some point. You’ll still hear this romantic and jazzy song in Parisian jazz cafes today, an ode to its timelessness.
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8. The Poor People of Paris – Chet Atkins
Edith Piaf was the famous singer to record The Poor People of Paris, but Chet Atkins’ version is the most popular English release. It speaks to the emotions and feelings of the poor class in the city rather than the rich who enjoy luxury, and it was an incredibly popular song regardless of the singer.
9. I Love Paris – Frank Sinatra
Many artists recorded I Love Paris. Everyone from Ella Fitzgerald to Frank Sinatra had their own version with their personal spin on the song. You can argue over which of the two laid down the better recording, but both song versions remain a relatively simple ode to the city of Paris and the lovers who find themselves at home there.
10. Soul le Ciel de Paris – Edith Piaf
Paris has a bit of a fairytale quality to it. Whether it’s the dream city of lovers, a place full of light, or the center of high culture, everyone has a different idealized version of it in their mind. Soul Le Ciel De Paris is a song that pays tribute to that, from the beauty of the old parts of the city to the street performers worthy of taking the time to watch.
11. Paris – The 1975
Paris is a place of hope for many people, whether it’s an idyllic place to live, a dream vacation, or a place to start a new life and escape your troubles. The 1975 took on the last one, with their song Paris being all about running away to Paris to find a simpler life and get away from the problems plaguing them at the time.
12. Ménilmontant – Charles Trenet
Charles Trenet is one of the most significant creators of French music, recording over a thousand songs in his career. Ménilmontant was his homage to the city of Paris, a glittering tribute to the neighborhood he grew up in and the routes he ran around the city. Though songs of his own material make up a small percentage of his catalog, this song was literally like viewing Paris from his perspective and is a song worthy of preserving for posterity.
13. Free Man In Paris – Joni Mitchell
Joni Mitchell wrote Free Man In Paris about her good friend David Geffen. It seems to be from his perspective, enjoying his holidays in Paris with her when he was able to escape the responsibilities of being the head of Asylum Records. Only in Paris did he feel free and unfettered, about to enjoy himself. The song has gone on to become a message of empowerment for young women, as Mitchell is the singer, but it’s a marvelous song no matter how you look at it.
14. Paris Is Burning – St. Vincent
France is known for a lot of things, but one of the best-known is the cultural revolutions led by the poorest classes in the country. Most of those protests center on the city of Paris, with Paris Is Burning referencing an underclass revolt in the city that could be the Paris Commune of 1871. The imagery of seeing a wonderful and historical city like Paris in flames is powerful, the perfect metaphor for a difficult situation.
15. Under The Bridges of Paris – Eartha Kitt
Under The Bridges Of Paris came after English verses were written for the song nearly 40 years after it was first created in French. The original writer was Vincent Cotto in 1913, but Dorcas Cochran would turn it into an American hit by putting it in English and seeing numerous artists take their turn with it. Eartha Kitt produced arguably the best version of the song, as her soulful voice gave it more depth than the versions by Dean Martin and Vera Lynn.
16. Place Pigalle – Elliott Smith
Elliott Smith spent some time in Paris during his 1999 world tour, taking a few months to decompress from the stress of the road. That didn’t mean he stopped writing songs though. He would pen Place Pigalle in honor of the market square near where he stayed in the city, divulging a few details of a romance between him and a French woman in the city. It’s one of the deep cuts from the artist and a song that never made it onto an album.
17. Swing De Paris – Django Reinhardt
Django Reinhardt was one of the best jazz guitarists in history. You can even think of him as one of the most important guitar players to ever live. He spent a lot of time in Paris, with his music evoking the very feeling of being on the streets of the city. While the song doesn’t mention Paris (because it has no lyrics), it’s all about how the city makes you feel.
18. Give Paris One More Chance – Jonathan Richman
Give Paris One More Chance turned around Jonathan Richman’s career. An ode to the great artists that have come from the city like Charles Aznavour and Edith Piaf, it’s a typical ode to the city through the eyes of an artist. It’s a simple swing song about love too, asking any doubters about the city to give Paris another chance at proving itself the City of Love.
19. Paris 1919 – John Cale
Paris 1919 was John Cale’s first and only attempt at the baroque pop style, but it’s still one of the most beautiful songs he has released as a solo artist. It, alongside the album it came out on, was mostly a strange reimagining of the Paris Peace Conference of 1919. Don’t take this one to your history teacher though, Cale was well-known for his impressionist view of the world, so think of this as a Picasso painting of the conference.
20. Paris Sous les Bombes – Suprême NTM
“Bombes” in the title of this song and album from NTM are not referencing actual exploding bombs. It references the rapper’s friends using aerosol cans when they create graffiti in the city. This was one of the best offerings available for French rap, evocative of gang life in the city and running from the cops after spray painting walls.
21. La Bohème – Charles Aznavour
Charles Aznavour is another name we have to bring up on any list of French music. La Bohème would become his signature song and an international hit, being recorded in several languages. The song extolls his love for his time in the northern end of Paris during his childhood and the longing for a return to the bygone days in the villages outside of the city. Several artists have picked this one up, but the original is by far the best.
22. Little French Song – Carla Bruni
For many people, a trip to France is a huge goal in their lives. Little French Song talks about how everytime life gets her down, Carla Bruni sings a “little french song,” making everything seem okay. It’s a trip around the city of Paris, from the Bastille to Pigalle, and mentions plenty of French artists who have made it just a bit brighter for her.
23. Postcard from Paris – The Band Perry
This might be a bit of cheating. Postcard From Paris namedrops the city without being specifically about it. It harps on the feeling of emptiness that comes from something like a “postcard from Paris” when you’ve been there before. It isn’t as exciting as the real thing, and it isn’t as big of a deal anymore.
24. Paris (Ooh La La) – Grace Potter
Paris (Ooh La La) won’t win you any awards for clever lyrics. It has a repetitive chorus and is mostly about how badly the singer wants to get busy under the sheets, but it’s got what every great rock song needs: a blazing guitar. It’s got a great beat, seeing it covered by a lot of other artists since Grace Potter laid down the original recording.
25. Paris Loves Lovers – Fred Astaire
Paris has a strong reputation as the city of love and lovers, and who better to sing of glistening streets and the potential romances of the shining city than Fred Astaire?
26. A Country Girl In Paris – John Denver
John Denver’s A Country Girl In Paris is all about the conflicting feelings of a poor country girl going to such a magnificent city. It’s so unlike her normal life, and she has a hard time appreciating it because she’s trying to adjust.
27. Les oiseaux de Paris – Charles Trenet
We’ll end our list with another legendary French voice and his take on the city of Paris. Les Oiseaux De Paris by Charles Trenet is a classic song about the city and the birds that live there (literally and metaphorically).
As a contributing writer for Music Grotto, Dakotah writes and produces professional music/media content. He works closely with editorial staff to meet editorial standards and create
quality content for the Music Grotto website. Dakotah is passionate about music in a wide variety of genres, from hip-hop to country and lo-fi to metal, and he enjoys creating music pieces for Music Grotto.