At the forefront of this esthetic were the music videos, at a time when the internet was still in its infancy, with TV and especially channels like MTV reigning supreme. Open your eyes and ears to the full and admire these videos, directed by some of the greatest directors in the field.
Around The World
1. Daft Punk – Around The World (1997, Virgin)
Daft Punk approached the experienced director Michel Gondry, who was keen for the chance to experiment more, to create the video for Around The World from their debut album Homework, which came out in early 1997. Around The World was its fourth single, released in March of that year, and its vocals consisted of the title repeated through a talkbox. Gondry had the genius idea to film a robotic and repetitive choreographed sequence, created by Bianca Li, with each of the characters personifying a sound. If the aim was to go right around the world, the results could not have been better!
2. Mr Oizo – Flat Beat (1999, F Communications)
In 1999, Mr Oizo was making music for F Communications. He had not yet revealed his identity as Quentin Dupieux, a gifted and original movie director, but had already made two music videos for Laurent Garnier in 1997 (Crispy Bacon and Flashback). Next, he came up with Flat Eric, the mischievous puppet who behaves like a top official in his retro office, smoking Frankfurters instead of cigars. His masterstroke was to make the character his avatar, using it in ads and short films, like Where's The Money George? featuring Pharrell Williams in 2010.
Music Sounds Better With You
3. Stardust – Music Sounds Better With you (1998, Roulé)
In the dreamy Stardust video, we find Michel Gondry at the helm again, this time with the spotlight on DIY for kids. In the video, a boy is totally absorbed in building a miniature glider, while Stardust make their way up the Top 5. The group, made up of DJ Alan Braxe, singer and producer Benjamin Diamond, and Thomas Bangalter—half of Daft Punk and already masked—end up on a cloud where they meet the boy, who realizes that music really does sound better with Stardust.
4. Alex Gopher – The Child (1999, Disques Solid / V2)
H5 member Antoine Bardou-Jacquet directed this video for French Touch master producer Alex Gopher. To create the visuals for The Child with its Billie Holiday sample, the director imagined the dramatization of a childbirth taking place in a New York made entirely out of words, similar in style to the short film Logorama, for which H5 won an Oscar in 2010.
Too Long by Daft Punk
5. Daft Punk – Too Long (2000, Virgin)
When the kings of French Touch finished their second album Discovery, scheduled for 2001, they were bold enough to ask Leiji Matsumoto—the Japanese artist behind the legendary anime Albator—to produce a animated story as visuals for the entire album. Matsumoto was delighted and created Interstella 5555: The Story of the Secret Star System, with animation by Kazuhisa Takenouchi. It tells the story of a group of alien musicians who are kidnapped and taken to Earth, where they are manipulated by an evil producer while they try and find the way back to their home planet. Too Long is its last track, featuring vocals performed by US producer Romanthony. The song lasts a full 10 minutes, but when something is this good, it's definitely not too long!
I Feel For You
6. Bob Sinclar – I Feel For You (2000, Yellow Productions / EastWest)
For this video, director Denis Thybaud—whose work includes numerous Canal+ productions as well as music videos for David Guetta and Sinclair—produced an abridged remake of Brian de Palma's movie Phantom of the Paradise. Fun fact: Paul Williams—who featured on Daft Punk's Random Access Memories, performing the vocals on Touch—wrote the music and played the role of Swan in the original Brian de Palma movie. In the remake, Bob Sinclar plays the part of Winslow Leach, the disfigured and titular Phantom of the Paradise, as he searches for the right singer to perform his music. To bring things full circle, the main sample is taken from Cerrone.
Feeling For You
7. Cassius – Feeling For You (1999, Virgin)
Another adaptation, this time of Superman, by director Evan Bernard, who has also worked for the Beastie Boys and Moby. In the Feeling For You video, a regular young man transforms into Super C (for Cassius) to save victims from terrible DJs on a nightly basis, and even has to escape an attempted kidnapping by shady promoters. The video is as fun as Cassius themselves, making good use of many comic book tropes.
Demon You are my high image
8. Demon – You Are My High (1999, 20000st / Small)
In 1999, the young Demon was looking for an idea for the video for this single from his album Midnight Funk. His producer came across the cover of Paris nightlife magazine WAD, which showed an extreme closeup of a kiss. Without missing a beat, the team recruited two actors and filmed a languid, three minute kiss, shot in seven takes, which was subsequently censored by French TV channel M6, making the track instantly famous. "We just wanted a kiss which would make people want to kiss," admitted director Faben Dufils, who has also made videos for the likes of David Guetta, Joachim Garraud, and Cerrone.
Daft Punk - Da Funk
9. Daft Punk – Da Funk (2000, Virgin)
Taken from Daft Punk's first album Homework, which came out in 1997, Da Funk was recorded in 1995 and released as the second single. For the video, eccentric genius Spike Jonze filmed a dog-headed man wandering the streets of New York with a ghetto blaster pumping out Da Funk and driving everyone crazy. Does a blast of funk need any justification? Thomas Bangalter has said it was "just a man-dog walking with a ghetto-blaster in New York." And why not?
10. Daft Punk – Revolution 909 (2000, Virgin)
The sixth single from Homework, called Revolution 909, came out in 1998. The director Roman Coppola filmed a police raid on a techno party that had far reach. That was the time when raves were being stopped throughout Europe. By following the origin of the tomato stain on the police officer's uniform, which allows the heroine to escape, Coppola pulls out all the stops to create an incredible video.
Lady (Hear Me Tonight)
11. Modjo – Lady (Hear Me Tonight) (2000, Sound Of Barclay)
Modjo's hit single had its video made by director François Nemeta—a former assistant to Michel Gondry who has also worked with Wax Taylor, Kings of Convenience, and Benjamin Biolay. It tells a beautiful story of teenage friendship, following three friends driving around in a car bought for next to nothing in Canada.
12. The Supermen Lovers (feat. Mani Hoffman) – Starlight (2000, Lafessé Records)
Animation specialist David Nicolas Honoré de Barzolff, also known as Numéro 6, is a regular French Touch collaborator, having worked with Versatile Records, Pépé Bradock, I-Cube, and Mr. Oizo. For Starlight by producer Guillaume Atlan aka The Supermen Lovers, he portrayed a family somewhat reminiscent of Mr Potato Head (but in the style of cult directors Caro and Jeunet), whose son gets to experience the disappointments of a quick rise to fame that he tries to keep all for himself.
Am I Wrong
13. Etienne de Crécy – Am I Wrong (2000, Disques Solid/PIAS)
Etienne de Crécy likes music to be a family business. For the song Am I Wrong, released in 2000 on his label Disques Solid, his brother Geoffroy—a member of the H5 studio—created a zany animation denouncing the excesses of the junk food industry. A cow hypnotized by a TV feed, unaware that it's being cut into slices while still alive, eventually rises up against the boss of the fast food restaurant it was being exploited by. Kind of like a premonition of Super Size Me.
AIR - Sexy Boy (Official Video)
14. Air – Sexy boy (1997, Source / Virgin)
The duo from Versailles called on director Mike Mills to make the video for the single Sexy Boy from their debut album Moon Safari. As well as feature films, he has also made music videos for artists like Moby and Yoko Ono. Later, in 2004, Air even wrote a track named after him, for their album Talkie Walkie. For the track Sexy Boy, Mills filmed them accompanied by a plush ape on a New York backdrop full of retro comic book tropes.
Avia - why should i cry
15. Avia – Why Should I Cry (2002, Catalogue)
To complete the list, we have an oddity from 2002—somewhat late compared to most of the original French Touch. Pierre Aviat, nicknamed Avia, may not be the best-known producer, but his album I See That Now offers a pleasantly laid back, trip hop infused version of French Touch. Above all, the video by César Vayssié, who had previously made the visuals for Laurent Garnier's Greed, has a refreshingly kooky and poetic summer vibe. A little gem that's also an excellent tribute to Jacques Tati.