The Phoenix Revolution: Have The French Usurped The British In Musical Dominance?

04.23.13 5 years ago 18 Comments

Phoenix’s Bankrupt!, the French band’s fifth album (yes, they’ve been around for that long) and first since Wolfgang Amadeus Phoenix made them global superstars, comes out today. They’re one of many factors why there’s a musical renaissance in France happening right now, to the point where the French might soon pass the British in terms of musical relevance here in America. Let’s take a look at some reasons why.

1. Phoenix

After the release of 2009’s Wolfgang Amadeus Phoenix — which still sounds like a breathe of fresh, effortlessly cool air four years later — Phoenix became one of the biggest bands in the world. They headlined both weekends of Coachella earlier this month, have plum Primavera Sound and Lollapalooza timeslots waiting for them this summer, and they’re beloved by the general public and critics, and when does that ever happen?

Their new album, Bankrupt!, which doesn’t quite recapture the glory of Wolfgang, but comes close (it’s more obsessed with synth-laden 1980s pop music and sounds like it’s trying to impress you more than its predecessor), currently has a respectable 75% on Metacritic, and it’s expected to debut in the top-five on the Billboard 200. For the next few months at least, Phoenix is THE rock band — the Foo Fighters are on hiatus, legacy acts like Bruce Springsteen, U2, and Paul McCartney don’t have anything new to promote, the Black Keys are enjoying their well-earned successes from last year, the Red Hot Chili Peppers are running on fumes — and Bankrupt! is the sound of 2013 rock radio.

2. Daft Punk

Until the day Kanye announces a collaboration with Tom Waits and Biggie’s ghost, Daft Punk’s Random Access Memories is the year’s most anticipated album. What other band could inspire hundreds, maybe thousands of imposters, based on a single 30-second loop? Put another way, as much as Phoenix might mean to pop music at this exact moment in time, there wouldn’t be an EDM renaissance without Guy-Manuel de Homem-Christo and Thomas Bangalter (which is what makes their Rolling Stone interview so fascinating). Daft Punk is the rare dance band that non-dance fans can enjoy, and Random will likely appear in numerous top-five lists come December.

3. And the rest

Elsewhere, M83 are both the sound of Tom Cruise’s Oblivion and bedroom pop (and a fascinating example of a so-called “hipster band” that bros love the sh*t out of, too, because of “Midnight City” — THAT SAX), Justice continues to inspire with their intoxicating mix of heavy rock and disco, Madeon is a ridiculously young and gifted house producer who’s helping shape the scene, and David Guetta is oft-considered to be the best DJ in the world. The list goes on and on.

They may not have an Adele of their own and no one will mistake Phoenix for Coldplay, in terms of their ability to sell out a 20,000-seat stadium in 10 seconds, but the French are slowly gaining on the British and have already far surpassed them in the all-important (and for lack of a better term) “cool factor.” Hell, namechecking Daft Punk alone is like having the password to a secret conversational fraternity (it’s a great party icebreaker). French dominance is happening here in America slowly, but it is happening.


The British have a fondness for hyperbole. Take the Vaccines: a perfectly fine post-punk pop band who NME called “the great British guitar band” before their cheeky first album, What Did You Expect from The Vaccines?, was even released. This bloviating quickly becomes tired; too many British acts are the next all-time something (think: the insufferable Artic Monkeys hype of 2006). They can’t just be good. The French seem honored to even be in the conversation.

5. Megan Draper

Or maybe it’s just because of Megan Draper’s “Zou Bisou Bisou” dance.

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