How can one begin to describe French music? For Brittany-born pop musician Julie Budet–alias Yelle– it simply means "singing in French." Budet maintains, "It's the only rule to me. I have a hard time listening to French singers who sing in English–besides Phoenix!" The choice to perform music solely in her native tongue may have been bold, but it's one that has ultimately proven to be a successful move in her career.
Growing up, she recalls her parents playing the music of Léo Ferré, Jacques Brel, Jean-Michel Caradec, Michel Petrucciani, and Anne Sylvestre around the hoise, These influences would inspire her professional foray into music in 2005 during the MySpace era as part of YELLE, a band made up of Yelle herself (Julie Budet) and GrandMarnier (Jean-François Perrier). Their first single, "Je veux te voir," became a wild success–and the rest is history.
Of course, it takes much more than mastering the French language to produce a track worthy of being called emblematic of French culture. For Budet, that kind of title means achieving longevity lasting more than 10 years, and requires “a special energy.” A common thread throughout her music is its narrative quality. You'll find that, for example, in her 2017 single “Romeo,” a song that's infectious and catchy, yet features melancholic lyrics. You’ll feel like a true Parisienne with just one listen.
Perhaps the greatest contributor to YELLE’s success is Budet’s ability to make music that transcends barriers. “[French music is] a unique balance of cultures,” she begins. “If you look at a map, you can see how surrounded we are, and it all makes sense—we get influences from everywhere!”
Indeed, YELLE’s influences come from all over both sides of the Atlantic—namely Kate Bush and Damon Albarn from the UK, Gwen Stefani from the US, and Chagrin d'Amour, Elli et Jacno, and Richard Gotainer from France.
Who will join YELLE on their quest for global domination à la française? Budet nominates French rap group PNL. “They have invented a new way of writing: very deep, very weird, iconic, and modern,” she states. “It's a real journey, once you get into it.”
With a more than decade-long career and with no language barrier too great to stop her, we’re sure we’ll be singing along to her music—in our glorious broken French—for years to come.