Justice for French Touch: The Gallic movement's essential tracks

Justice for French Touch: The essential tracks from the Gallic movement
Justice for French Touch: The essential tracks from the Gallic movement Copyright YouTube - Ed Banger/Because - X - Instagram
Copyright YouTube - Ed Banger/Because - X - Instagram
By David Mouriquand
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For the release of French electro duo Justice's first album in over seven years, here's a countdown of the essential French Touch songs.


Today drops ‘Hyperdrama’, the new album by French electro duo Justice – their first record in more than seven years.

Having listened to some of it, it’s a welcome return to form, with some live-tailored hooks that show the band have still got it, even if the album's hit and miss moments of downsized French house may disappoint earlier fans of Justice and the heavier beats present on their best album – 2007's ‘Cross’.

Still, it sounds like their strongest work since their debut, and the eagerly anticipated comeback of Gaspard Augé and Xavier de Rosnay signals that despite the retirement of Daft Punk in 2021, French Touch isn’t dead.

Mostly defined by its geographical situation, as opposed to adherence to a specific sound, the 90s form of European EDM, spearheaded by the likes of Daft Punk, Étienne de Crécy, AIR, Cassius and many more, spanned various genres – from house, dance, electro, old school disco to jazz and plenty of glorious sampling.

Ever since Daft Punk’s Thomas Bangalter and his tracks for his Roulé label – some of the earliest examples of French Touch – to more recent tracks by m83, Duck Sauce and Phoenix, the Gallic sound’s popularity has waned since the 90s and 00s, but still endearingly simmers.

Here’s our (non-exhaustive) ranked picks of the seminal French Touch songs to get you in the mood before (and after) giving Justice’s ‘Hyperdrama’ a few spins.

10) Bob Sinclar – Gym Tonic (1998)

Christophe Le Friant aka: Bob Sinclar, named after the super spy played by Jean-Paul Belmondo in one of the greatest French comedies of all time Le Magnifique, is an inescapable name in French Touch. Co-produced by Thomas Bangalter of Daft Punk, the track became a hit due to the perfectly calibrated disco samples and is credited by many with popularising the French Touch of house music. Sinclar would go on to release several cheesy hits like ‘The Beat Goes On’ and ‘Love Generation’ - but he’s never bettered ‘Gym Tonic’, which also used a Jane Fonda workout video for the promotion.

9) Phoenix – If I Ever Feel Better (2000)

French Touch-adjacent Versailles rockers Phoenix have had huge international success over the years, and their debut album can be considered as part of the movement, with their soft electro leaning more towards pop (with some sampling of Japanese jazz musician Toshiyuki Honda). They worked with the legendary mixer / producer Philippe Zdar (more on him in a bit) at the Motorbass Studio to record their first LP ‘United’, which is a catchy and sophisticated gem which has been somewhat unfairly overshadowed over the years by the more new wave sounds of ‘Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart’ and their most recent album ‘Alpha Zulu’.

8) Demon vs Heartbreaker – You Are My High (2000)

French electro music producer Demon enjoyed great success with his first album 'Midnight Funk' – thanks to the track 'You Are My High', which sampled the songs 'You Are My High' and 'Oops Up Side Your Head' by The Gap Band. It merged R&B and funk, and part of its monumental success was down to the music video, which featured a smooching close-up which reminded everyone that French Touch could be taken very literally. The clip was banned from TV – which, as you can imagine, only reinforced the track’s popularity.

7) Mr Oizo – Flat Beat (1999)

This instrumental piece by Mr Oizo – aka: surrealist filmmaker Quentin Dupieux – was the beginning of Fat Eric, the ice-cool yellow plush figure who knew how to bob along to the beat. And smoke sausages. ‘Flat Beat’ is an infectious tune, whose syncopated rhythms went on to promote Levi’s and garner huge commercial success. The video was directed by Dupieux, and the track topped the charts all over Europe, peaking at number two on the Eurochart Hot 100. Strangely, Flat Eric’s charms were not as successful in France as it was in the UK, where it stayed at number one for weeks. Merde alors!

6) Modjo – Lady (Hear Me Tonight) (2000)

Quite the French Touch anthem, this one. The lively track pretty much epitomises the timeless movement, a song which sampled Chic’s 'Soup For One' and stood out because of its groovy yet smooth bass sounds. It was the band’s only major hit, and three years after its release, the duo Romain Tranchart and Yann Destal went their separate ways. Dommage

5) St Germain – Rose Rouge (2000)

Ludovic Navarre, under the name of St Germain, was already known to the French public in the mid-90s after the release of his debut album 'Boulevard'. But it’s with 2000’s 'Tourist' that he became a French Touch legend. Released on the legendary jazz label Blue Note, his brand of house music was heavily jazz inspired, with many considering it to be an acid jazz record. It sold more than four million copies worldwide, and the opening track ‘Rose Rouge’ was a voluptuous and rather sexy number, sampling American singer Marlena Shaw. As Navarre showed on his 1995 track 'Sentimental Mood', the borders of French Touch could be expanded to include jazz. It took 'Rose Rouge' to make him a star of the movement.


4) Justice – D.A.N.C.E. (2007)

Yes, them again. Gaspard Augé and Xavier de Rosnay exploded onto the scene in 2007 with their Grammy nominated debut album ‘Cross’, an opera disco which featured the absolute banger ‘D.A.N.C.E.’ It was written as a tribute to Michael Jackson, and the verses contain an interpolation of the coda of Britney Spear’s ‘Me Against The Music’. In case you were wondering, the vocals were provided by the London-based Foundation For Young Musicians choir – maybe a thank you for all the love the UK gave to Mr Oizo.

3) Stardust – Music Sounds Better With You (1998)

'Music Sounds Better With You' is the only song from trio Stardust, comprised of Thomas Bangalter, DJ Alan Braxe and vocalist Benjamin Diamond. It was initially released on Bangalter's aforementioned label Roulé, before getting a wider release on Virgin Records. It went on to be described as one of the greatest dance songs ever released, and for good reason. Its infectious hook showed that there was greatness in simplicity. The band never released another tune together. But that’s fine. Why feel the need to build on world-conquering perfection? Especially with that music video courtesy of Michel Gondry...

2) Cassius – Cassius 1999 (1999)


'Cassius 1999' was the first single from the band’s aptly named 1999 album. No prizes for guessing when it was released. Producers Philippe Cerboneschi and Hubert Blanc-Francard - better known as Zdar and Boombass - delivered one of French Touch’s very best with this Donna Summer-sampling, funky and sensual hit. It’s nothing short of genius. The duo are sadly no more, following the death of Zdar in 2019, just days before the release of their fifth album. Boombass went on to publish a book entitled "Boombass. Une histoire de la French Touch" in which he recounts his career in the music industry. “Guess who’s in the house?” is asked on the Radio Edit. It’s Cassius. It’ll always be Cassius.

1) Daft Punk – One More Time (2001)

It had to be. The French Touch movement owes so much to Thomas Bangalter, one of its founding fathers, who nearly made this Top 10 with his track ‘Club Soda’. But after his contributions on ‘Gym Tonic’ and ‘Music Sounds Better With You’, we feared overkill. His time with Daft Punk heralded the triumph of French Touch, which arguably peaked with their second album 'Discovery' in 2001. Their robotic post-disco electro-funk dwarfed the competition, and the album more than earned its not-quite-top-spot on our very own Best European Albums of the 21st Century list. The groovy ‘One More Time’ is one of their most beloved tracks, an Eddie Johns sampling megahit that changed the whole electro music industry and was best described by Pitchfork when the magazine wrote that it distilled “25 years of pop and house into five and a half minutes of first-time joy.” Yep, that pretty much sums it up. It’s French Touch at its most powerful, and a testament to what the movement could achieve.

Justice's new album ‘Hyperdrama’ is out now.

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