Christine & her Queens (though really it’s just the solitary Héloïse Letissier) have been fascinated by gender from the off. Her first album began with the memorable refrain “I’ve won…I’m a man now” – which was your first clue. Up to now however Letissier did not provide any definitive view – with the ideas of self-identity and self-worth serving as grist for the songs on her debut Chaleur humaine.
On Chris we get our answer – that we are free to define ourselves. How do we know? Because Chris already has.
Here language and gender are shaped and re-shaped, and the recombinant parts are blasted through with the sort of rubbery 80s funk sound at home in Bangkok karaoke bars. Chris may lack the guile of that captivating debut, but it is more outwardly funky, danceable and visceral too.
There may not be anything here that can touch the hermetically sealed perfection of ‘Tilted’. What we get instead are more direct appeals to the dancefloor. ‘Girlfriend’ is prime art-pop while the descending bass on ‘Goya Soda’ make it party fodder despite the bizarre titular refrain.
Crucially however no concessions are made in the lyrics, structure, or attitude. Chris may be very easy on the ear but that does not take away from how dense it is beneath the surface. Lyrics are barbed and coiled, slipping between languages and intonations with poise unmatched. ‘5 Dollars’ may be one of the most graceful, transcendent singles released all year – with an operatic and optimistic, yet understated and closely written chorus.
Chris drips with grandeur, and marks an important milestone for one of the most engaging voices in pop.