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What France Does that the U.S. Doesn't: Tribute Albums

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Apart from the few exceptions who truly make it big, French artists are not generally the ones to perform to sold-out stadiums on tours outside of France or French-speaking countries. But once any artist makes his or her mark on the international music scene, new artists tend to respect those musical predecessors, but from a distance. For example, the contemporary cover albums of Edith Piaf, Jacques Brel, Stevie Wonder, Whitney Houston, and Barbra Streisand are few and far in between. As I see it, it's less that new artists don't respect the hell out of established artists and more that they don't see a need to reimagine these icons' works.

In spending this semester abroad in Paris, I set out to learn about the trends in the current French music industry. One of the first things I noticed here is how new French artists seem to really idolize the more established ones of their parents' generation -- and perhaps a little more than their American counterparts. Let me explain further.

To the baby-boomer generation in France and in the French-speaking world, Jean-Jacques Goldman is one of the most respected and celebrated household names in music. Behind Johnny Hallyday, Jean-Jacques Goldman is the highest-grossing French pop artist still alive. Goldman's catalogue spans from the mid-1970's until the early 2000's. His songs are modern French anthems, with his music resonating with people of all ages.

Not only is Jean-Jacques Goldman's music celebrated in the international music scene, but his music has also helped further the careers of other international artists. In 1995, Céline Dion released "Pour que tu m'aimes encore," a song she considers "the biggest song of my French career." The single would sell just shy of 1 million copies in France and over 4 million worldwide, all while claiming the #1 spot on France's SNEP charts for 12 weeks. Goldman would reappear in Dion's career again in 1997 when she released "Let's Talk About Love," which sampled Goldman's 1987 hit "Puisque tu pars." Then in 2003, Jean-Jacques Goldman co-wrote and co-produced Céline Dion's French-language album 1 fille & 4 types.

In 2012, a tribute album entitled Génération Goldman was released by French label My Major Company, a record company partly funded by crowd-sourcing. With release by My Major Company, Génération Goldman came into fruition at the will of the people and served as an homage to the musical legacy of Jean-Jacques Goldman by pairing contemporary, young artists to Goldman's most renowned songs. The most popular tracks on the album are "Envole-moi" by M. Pokora and Tal, "Quand tu danses" by Corneille, and "Je te donne" by Leslie and Ivyrise. These three songs, along with numerous single releases, made for a wildly successful tribute album that was certified Diamond with 500,000 sales within its first month and which sat at the #1 spot on France's SNEP charts for four weeks. This past summer, a second tribute album to Jean-Jacques Goldman was released and aptly titled Génération Goldman volume 2. Also peaking at #1, the album is still moving around on the charts today.

What did the Jean-Jacques Goldman tribute albums do to music in France? It's simple: it found a way to reconcile the music of our parents with the artists of today. Because of both homage albums, Francophone children are now appreciating Goldman's music in a relatable way. I think that in the United States, where so much great music is released every year, it's imperative that we not only share with our kids the music we loved when we were children, but we also find a way to make it relatable for them, too. Both Génération Goldman albums proved that not only do tribute albums make money, but they sound great and bring families together, too.

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Image by Ianis Pledel