Fantastique. Électrique. Hypnotique. Le nouvel album de Christine and the Queens est parfait. Unfortunately, that’s as far as my ability to review in French goes, so English will have to do as we explore Chris, Héloïse Letissier’s deeply personal journey to discover sexuality, self and sound.
From the opening lines, a connection is forged as Chris addresses the listener directly on ‘Comme si , singing:
“C’est comme si on s’aimait, When you play me loud, baby,
C’est comme si on s’aimait, When you play me fast,
C’est comme si on s’aimait, Focus on my voice and let go,”
“It’s like we’re in love”, she pronounces. Every word we absorb strengthens the bond between artist and audience, bringing us into her world. Beyond that, Chris informs us in no uncertain terms that this is a new beginning.
“Let’s for the whole song,
Just pretend that all along,
I’ve been there, infectious,
That’s what I dream of when penning this verse,”
She asks us to leave our preconceptions at the door, and forget the Christine we fell in love with on Chaleur Humaine. She is gone, we are now in the company of Chris.
Speak of the devil, and he shall appear. Dâm-Funk introduces our new hero with a “Chrisss” and ‘Girlfriend’ begins. Over three minutes, we get to know Chris as someone with a penchant for funk, unafraid to tell you what they want. “Girlfriend? Don’t feel like a girlfriend, but lover? Damn, I’d be your lover”.
On ‘The walker’, Christine’s ability to manipulate words with efficiency and imbue them with meaning paints a painfully evocative picture of isolation. Stalking the streets, she senses trepidation from those around her but holds her head high, unashamed and unbroken. The instrumentation captures the mood perfectly – sullen and quiet, but determined.
As we move on to ‘Doesn’t matter’, the tone darkens. Here, Letissier comes face to face with depression, and fails to find solace in love. During the bridge, there is initially a sense of optimism, but on closer inspection we see that Letissier is actually pushing any sliver of hope away: “Run if you stole a shard of sunlight”.
That shard of sunlight manages to make its mark though. ‘5 dollars’ sees Chris exploring the sense of purpose that filled the hole created after Chaleur Humaine ended – her “baby blues”.
‘Goya ! Soda !’ is an instance where the French version of the track sounds more natural than its English twin. It’s understandable: when writing in one language and translating to another, sometimes words will lose their immediacy. Regardless, the highlight of song is actually instrumental: the piano outro leads the listener on an enchanting meander from key to key beautifully.
Chris is an incredibly personal album from start to finish, but there is perhaps no track more introspective than ‘Whats-her-face’, a reflection on the similarities between the weird kid at school and the outcast pop star. The echoing refrains of “ever, ever” act as a reminder that loneliness may always haunt us, no matter how hard we try.
This album is heart-wrenching and hopeful simultaneously. As we journey from Letissier to Christine & The Queens to Chris, we are granted access to the darkest corners of her self-doubt, aware that to do so is a necessary catharsis on the road to self-discovery. It’s not an easy thing to witness at times, this album will put a stone in the pit of your stomach and pull tears from your eyes. But the path we walk on Chris is honest, raw, and, ultimately, necessary. C’est magnifique.
Sounds Like… le commencement de la grandeur