Yé-yé music was a popular form of pop music that formed in southern Europe in the 1960s. It popularized singers such as France Gall, Chantel Goya, Francoise Hardy, and more. The music was cute, bubblegum pop but in French, obviously. I think the yé-yé girl movement was truly influential when it comes to music and fashion, which is why I’m talking about it. Yé-yé girls popularized and expanded the cute, girl next door look and made bubblegum pop music more normalized for future female French singers.
Starting with the music, Yé-yé girls started to emerge in on the radio program ‘Salut Les Copain’. The program was created by Daniel Pierce and Frank Tenot. Yé-yé girls started to get noticed on the program through a section they had called ‘Le Chouchou de La Semaine’ which translates to ‘This Weeks Sweetheart.’
Many girls got their career started on the show. Yé-yé girls started out ranging from 15 to 20, singing French versions of American songs. After doing hours of research, I think the main appealing factor was the innocence and cute factor the girls had. They were appealing to young girls who didn’t really have a peer type figure in the media and grown men who were creeps even for 1960 standards.
For example, the girls were very sexualized for being innocent. France Gall, a very popular yé-yé singer, was manipulated by Serge Gainsbourg to come out with a song called ‘Les Suceltes,’ To say the least, the song was a storybook telling on how she liked to have oral sex. In a rough translation, the song has lyrics such as “Sinks in the throat of Annie/She is in paradise.” The worst part is that France Gall had no idea what it really was about, “There, I learned that there is something about it. It was horrible, horrible! It changed my relationship with boys. It humiliated me, actually.” she told Parisian in 2015. So to say the least, behind the scenes wasn’t exactly as squeaky clean as you would think.
However, the good news is that the cutesy, girly aesthetic that these girls had helped French female singer in the long run. At the time, French female singers were expected to be very serious and stony-faced. Yé-yé girls changed that, they were just girls who sang about a schoolgirl crush, their first breakup, etc. It was just cute and fun, it was the exact opposite of the music that came before them. These girls broke the barrier for French female singer of the time and their style is still taken as inspiration for current singers too.
Now onto style, the yé-yé girls had a particular girly, very 60’s, light, lolita style. Yé-yé girls like Bridgit Bardot were getting rid of haute couture style. They thought the highly structured style was stuffy.
Not only did they have a huge influence on their young fans style, but they also had a huge influence on the fashion community. Sonia Rykiel career got launched after Françoise Hardy appeared in the poor boy sweater on the cover of French Elle.Hardy on the cover of French Elle
So not only did their laid back and adorable style have a huge impact on their fans and the fashion community, but they also had a huge impact on fashion of the era and the view of ‘french’ style. New York’s Fashion Institute Of Technology Colleen Hill tells CR Fashion Book “French women have long been lauded for their style, but the 1960s was certainly a high point,” she says. “This was also the era in which French ready-to-wear was coming into its own, and that generally resulted in the laid-back chic that we still associate with French women. The Yé-Yé look embodied the fresh, vibrant allure of the 1960s, but it was rarely exaggerated in a way that reads as too “retro” today.”
I think their laidback, delicate style still influences this generations style immensely and cemented the view of ‘French girl’ style. I also think it’s really cool to see how iconic and cute some of their outfits were. 10/10 would recommend creating a Pinterest board of Yé-Yé outfit inspiration.
Where Are They Now?
The question we’ve all have been asking. Obviously, I can’t pinpoint every Yé-Yé girl since there are too many but I am going to update you on the more popular Yé-Yé girls.
France Gall was one of the more popular stars of the Yé-Yé era. She had a successful and long career with songs like Laisse Tomber les Filles, Poupée de cire, poupée de son, and of course Les sucettes. She inspired the original version of My Way, which later became an international hit for Frank Sinatra. She had her own international hit with her album Babacar. Gall married Michel Berger on June 22, 1976, and had two kids. Unfortunately, she died on January 7th, 2018.
Françoise Hardy is a French singer/ songwriter that found massive success with her song ‘Tous les garçons et les filles.’ She has recorded in various languages, appeared in a handful of movies, and toured throughout Europe. Hardy is a well-known fashion icon with her iconic carefree, French style. She got married to Jacques Dutronc in 1981, they have one child.
Sylvie Vartan is a popular Yé-Yé singer who is known for her tough sounding songs. She had hits like ‘Panne d’essence’ and ‘Est-ce que to le sais.’ She is currently recording and giving concerts of jazz ballads in Francophone countries. She has two kids.
Jacqueline Taïeb is a singer who is best known for her hit song ‘7 Heures du Matin’. She penned hit song ‘Ready to Follow you’ for Dana Dawson. There isn’t a lot of information about her online but I’m pretty sure she recently went on tour.