As a representative of minimalism, I was initially thinking of Tiersen with a piece such as La Maison or La Démarche. I finally settled for The Deutsch Mark Is Coming (from Good Bye, Lenin!) until I finally decided to pick one from the real master of the genre, Philip Glass. More about this choice can be read in my blog.
I wanted a Bossa Nova in my list, reflecting my love for the Brazilian language (not Portuguese but how it is pronounced on a continent where it found enough space to sing and resonate). There are many enchanting songs and Garota de Ipanema is surely their best representative. The song is even good when sung in English. But it's only with the Brazilian expression that it becomes alive.
The composition from Buarque does not fall in this category, but appeared to me superior in all aspects as the symbol for how Brazilian music speaks to me.
Other interesting (English) songs
Lovestruck by Madness (the pals who found out they had talent). You can listen this in loop. I did that like, since 1999.
Je chante, by Les têtes raides, with a Brelian touch, that is, making prominent the combination of an elaborate text that stands by itself, with an imposing vocal interpretation, with the music that links the two reduced to its simplest form.
Je voudrais pas crever, by Serge Reggiani, singing the saddest poem of Boris Vian, "I'd hate to snuff it." Vian died 39. You never think one can actually read a poem aloud, let alone sing it. Reggiani does just that, he lets you hear a poem with a resonance that does not come from the sound of his voice.
Nos fiançailles, by Nilda Fernandez. A voice not of this world, neither male nor female, in both French and Spanish, singing joy with sadness, that lulled my 15 years old. His pronunciation of Fiança-ylle, où que l'on ahh-ylle is, oddly, proper to his interpretation (tributes pronounce normally). The clip is also highly artistic, with the concealed female who you never actually see but who seems to repeatedly reveal herself and who dominates the action.
Le bal perdu, by Bourvil. Guillemin, who said that Bourvil was extremely clever as well as a very nice person ("très gentil"), counted "Papa Joue Du Trombone" among his favourite songs. In a very different style, this sad song counts as one of my heart-breaking composition, interpreted better than anybody-else could by a master of ridicule and comedy.
À quoi ça sert l'amour, a vibrant interpretation by Piaf in her old age with her young and beautiful husband, Theo Sarapo (Lamboukas), to what is and what makes love, in a touching dialogue that manages to appear more authentic than ludicrous.
Jacobi marchait, by CharlÉlie Couture. There is a nice and smooth overlap between the artist singing and speaking.
Lindberg, by Robert Charlebois and Louise Forestier. A song that seems to respect no convention and just dive straight into the music, playing with its old tricks (canons, in particular) but otherwise only caring to externalize harmony, poetry and loufoquerie, "ché pu où chu rendu".
la complainte du phoque en Alaska, by Michel Rivard (beau dommage). It is as sad and deep as it is burlesque and ironic. It tells the story of a seal who went to pursue a career in a circus, coming to the agonizing conclusion that "it's not worth to leave one's loved ones, to spiral a ball on one's nose"~(fr).
À regarder la mer, by Alain Barrière. This is to popular music what Carmina Burana is to classical music. An explosion. This sensation that someone found something that is so good, it can only work, and you can only exaggerate it and over-perform it. "Qui ne me comprend pas, ne comprend pas la mer" (en).
Foule Sentimentale, by Alain Souchon, one of the artists from my childhood whose compositions didn't grow old and retain something more than nostalgic memories.
Marcia Baila, by Rita Mitsouko (Fred Chichin and Catherine Ringer), a highly aesthetic tribute to Marcia Moretto, a dancer and choreographer, former master of the Rita Mitsouko who honor her with a masterful display of the exercise. A beautiful line is suddenly shout at the face of everything and that, by itself, is enough to immortalize this song: "c'est la mort qui t'as assassiné Marcia"~(en).
Quelques mots d'amour, by Michel Berger, a simplistic pop-song, along with the others to come below, but that always ring a bell with me, evoking the white nights of my teen-age where I'd be saddened by this song playing on the radio. His Message personel would also work in the same way, but when performed by Françoise Hardy.
Initiales BB, by Serge Gainsbourg, which is, as for several of his creations, largely inspired (maybe to the point of being simply an adaptation) from other works, in this case, from Dvořák's ninth symphony. The text and diction, however, make it a poem of our times. Gainsbourg almost systematically verged on the genius, for instance with les petits papiers or le poiçonneur des Lilas os it is hard to pinpoint one representative favourite. Initiales BB mentions L'amour monstre, which is a plus. This studio version is interesting.
Sache que je, by Jean-Jacques Goldman, an essentially commercial artist with rather forgettable compositions but with occasional departures into Art and that here strikes with a masterpiece. The whole song, nicely written, argues that important and strong things don't have to be spelled out. The overly used "Je t'aime" (I love you) is born again by its silencing: "Sache que je"~(en).
Solitude, by Jean-Louis Aubert, a song that rings true to me, an introspection into one's loneliness, especially during childhood.
La ville dort, by Niagara. I can't quite catch what makes such a simple song so captivating. Maybe only I've been familiar with it all this time of the 80s that have been my childhood. Or maybe this is because the singer, Muriel Moreno, is the archetype of the French people, with no genius but with more than enough of multiple talents to greatly compensate, full of these qualities that are innocent and pure at the same time as they are doomed and damning.
Pull marine, by Isabelle Adjani, on a music by Serge Gainsbourg. The diaphanous voice of the actress (not a singer) that verges on the spoken, with feelings and emotions substituting for the singing, makes it a sincere-looking plea for forgiveness and company from a dejected star who has it all, except what matters most.