Arts and Entertainment

Françoise Hardy Bids Adieu

Examining the legacy of Françoise Hardy through the release of her new compilation album, 𝘘𝘶𝘦𝘭𝘲𝘶𝘦𝘴 𝘵𝘪𝘵𝘳𝘦𝘴 𝘲𝘶𝘦 𝘫𝘦 𝘤𝘰𝘯𝘯𝘢𝘪𝘴 𝘥’𝘦𝘭𝘭𝘦.

Reading Time: 4 minutes

Cover Image
By Vanessa Huang

Her hair tangles in the blustery wind, her trench coat unbuttoned to reveal a cream turtleneck. Her charming dimples are on full display as she smiles tenderly. Red and white block text stands proudly in the corner, announcing the first of two volumes of a new album released last month by 79-year-old French singer-songwriter Françoise Hardy. 

Hardy, along with being a fashion icon, was a major figure in the development of the Ye-Ye music movement, the French interpretation of British and American ‘60s pop. The name comes from “Yeah! Yeah!,” a phrase commonly heard in seminal songs of the era such as The Beatles’s “She Loves You” (1964). Ye-Ye artists tended to be younger women who represented a new kind of cool intelligence and beauty wrapped up in a chic French coat. The musicality of Ye-Ye is comparable to the pop music it was inspired by, but parallels can also be drawn to baroque music through the use of violins and more elaborate orchestras. Ye-Ye also had a fierce streak of chanson, or songs with sophisticated lyrics, incorporated into the style.

Hardy specifically toned down the sexual overtones prevalent in the genre and instead embraced angst and heartbreak. In “Tous les garçons et les filles” (1962), her breakout radio hit, Hardy laments, “Tous les garçons et les filles de mon âge (All the boys and girls my age) / Se promènent par les rues deux par deux (Walk in the streets two by two) / [...] Oui, mais moi, je vais seule (Yes, but me, I go alone) / Par les rues, l’âme en peine (In the streets, soul in pain).” Though Hardy never achieved wide recognition outside of France, her music was introduced with slightly more success to a young American audience when filmmaker Wes Anderson included her iconic hit “Le temps des l’amour” (1962) in his movie Moonrise Kingdom (2012). 

Since her 2018 album Personne d’Autre, Hardy has been radio silent—until December 2023, when she released Quelques titres que je connais d’elle, which translates to Some Titles That I Know of Her. Quelques titres que je connais d’elle is a deeply reflective album that takes a look back at Hardy’s career, repackaging around 30 songs spanning her discography and introducing 15 new ones.

Hardy was diagnosed with lymphoma in 2004, and since then her health has severely declined. In recent years, invasive cancer treatments have left her unable to sing, explaining her choice to release a collection as opposed to new music.

Quelques titres que je connais d’elle is by no means a greatest hits collection; it does not include her most well known songs (“Le temps de l’amour” and “Tous les garçons et les filles,” for instance) and instead aims to spotlight some of her lesser known songs. While her more recognizable songs lean towards rock, the songs featured in the two volumes are easygoing and relaxed. In this collection, Hardy is digging back through her body of work and deciding how she wants her sonic style to be remembered. 

Volume I is a folksy listen with mellow vocals, while Volume II embraces ‘70s and ‘80s musicality through the use of electronic keyboards and plucky strings. Throughout the entire two-volume collection, Hardy maintains an acoustic presence with guitar strumming and soft drums accented by the occasional tambourine or violin. She harmonizes with herself in overlapping vocals and her velvety voice is uplifted by a supporting choir, curating an enveloping atmosphere of warmth. The world of Françoise Hardy is perpetually wistful, and Quelques titres que je connais d’elle is no different. 

Volume I opens with the newly released “Nuit g’été,” which features echoey vocals and a lilting chorus line. Volume I ends with one German, two French, and three English songs, making the divisive leap from melancholy to misery. “Träume,” which comes from Hardy’s album Françoise (1970) features Hardy singing in a low voice over a slow violin, “Träume, die bei Nacht entstehen (Dreams that arise at nighttime) / Und dem Tag vergehen (And vanish by daytime) / Sind meistens gar nicht wahr (Are mostly not true at all).” In “Let My Name Be Sorrow,” Hardy sings, “Once we had laughs as big as lies / We had lies as sweet as you / Till one morning for us two / All was over.” 

Towards the middle of Volume II, Hardy offers a respite from the night with “L’Heure bleue.” In France, “L’Heure bleue” is known as a certain time during twilight in which the sun is below the horizon, leading the remaining light to take on an intensely blue appearance. The song is an energizing listen with Vince Guaraldi-esque jazz accents and an audible exuberance in Hardy’s voice.

Though Quelques titres que je connais d’elle is a retrospective collection, the listener is jolted out of Hardy’s world with “T’es pas poli ft. Patrick Dewaere.” For a record focusing specifically on Hardy’s legacy, Dewaere’s feature on the album lacks relevance. Additionally, Hardy abandons her signature smooth vocals and adopts a more erotic and high-pitched vocality that seems inauthentic. In a collection intended to celebrate Hardy and her unique style, “T’es pas poli” is a misplaced intrusion that breaks the listeners’ immersion in Hardy’s ethereal soundscape. 

The goal of Quelques titres que je connais d’elle is not to deliver a new message but to serve as both a bookend to a prolific career and an introductory work for new listeners. This is Hardy’s legacy album as she nears the end of her musical career—and the end of her life. Quelques titres que je connais d’elle provides a spotlight for a set of songs that embody the heart of Hardy’s musicality, resulting in an album that is bittersweet and melancholy, a fitting conclusion for an artist who has never shied away from sentimentality.