Christine and the Queens gets the best of both languages in ‘Chris’

Christine and the Queens

Because Music · September 21, 2018

Christine and the Queens’ sophomore album, Chris, is another 80’s revivalist album climbing the pop charts. Why do we need another artist rinsing Michael Jackson songs, writing songs that are essentially ‘Thriller’ or ‘Bad’, and calling them something different? The album is danceable and boppy, but on first listen, neither Christine’s production nor instrumentals are considerably fresh, so why is it worth listening to?

The beauty of Chris lies in Christine and the Queens’ bilingual storytelling and brutal honesty in her quest for self-identity. Christine, born Héloïse Letissier, is a French set-designer-turned-pop-singer who has found and claimed her own planet in the music industry. Following her debut album Chaleur Humaine, Christine has been exploring her identity as a genderqueer and pansexual artist, normalizing female strength, androgyny, and non-binary love through her songs and image. She’s equipped with a unique set of skills and is using every single one of them to her advantage. No other artist right now is taking the best sounds from French and English words, the best qualities of masculinity and femininity, and writing lyrics with 100% transparency while also interweaving heavy choreography into a live show, and maintaining a commercial transatlantic audience. Her androgyny, fierce intellect and dual fluency are forces to reckon with in an otherwise male-dominated, women-objectifying and heavily Americanized industry.

Two dictionaries are available to Christine. Just like on her debut album Chaleur Humaine, Christine writes lyrics for every track in both English and French, making her album a 23-track behemoth. At times the language barrier and Google Translate don’t meld in a perfectly poetic way, like in ‘Comme si’ when she sings “When you play me loud baby / When you play me fun.” However, most times it works well: she either tells a story in one language and translates it to fit the other language over the same beat (for instance, ‘The walker’ and ‘La Marcheuse’), or she tells two slightly different stories, one in English and one in French over the same instrumental track. In both cases, she utilizes the best of both languages to her advantage to create thought-provoking imagery and quirky comparisons.

On Chris, Christine tells the story of a new character, Chris, emerging from the old Christine, bringing herself and her fans closer to the woman she ultimately wants to be: stronger, sexier, smarter, more unapologetic and more honest. In ‘The walker / La marcheuse’ she sings, “There’s a pride in my singing / The thickness of a new skin”. In her quest to be more dominant, she approaches sex like Madonna and Lady Gaga do: demanding pleasure, like in ‘Comme si on s’aimait,’ when she sings “’Cause my nerve passes for rude / I’m the warmth that now exudes / Through your lips as you start to obsess on / Now show me how you care to hum along.”

Her independence translates into how she made the album as well, which is unsurprisingly produced all by herself. Compared to most of the pop coming out of the US and the UK lately, Christine’s sonic style relies on minimal, rather repetitive loops to tell her stories, and the rest of her dynamic flare comes in her lyrics and choreography. We heard that on Chaleur Humaine as well, with her songs ‘Christine’ and ‘iT’; they both sound like they were recorded in a high school band room with an 808 added in later. In fact, minimalism ends up playing to Christine’s advantage, because it allows the listener to focus on the lyrics, the annunciation, the language and the broader themes of the songs.

By way of her unabashed lyrics and new sense of confidence, she is intent on making the industry take her as seriously as they would if she was a male singer. Chris has an unparalleled ability to take a large, cumbersome, unshaped piece of her identity and morph it into a beautifully palatable, sexy, cool and self-effacing piece of art to be shared with the world.

Listen to Chris:

1 Comment

  1. This writer clearly does her homework and then conveys her observations with a fluid, cogent intensity. Chris comes even more alive and into focus with the articulate lense that Carter aims effortlessly. I hope she will continue to share her language and perspective in this and other media.

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