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26 September 2018

The body takes the stage in Christine and the Queens new record, Chris

Having chopped off that feminine last syllable and most of her hair, “Chris” places the body at the centre of an album grappling with gender, sexuality and desire.

By Anna Leszkiewicz

The music of Christine and the Queens has always been rooted in the body. French singer-songwriter Héloïse Letissier, the woman behind the alter ego, studied classical ballet for ten years. When her first album, Chaleur Humaine, began to draw attention in 2016, it was in no small part thanks to captivating live renditions of the lead single “Tilted”, Letissier and her backing dancers uninhibited as they undulated under a spotlight with Michael Jackson-like mannerisms. The New York Times labelled her “a pop star who sings with her muscles”.

The body takes the stage once again on her second record, Chris. Having chopped off that feminine last syllable and most of her hair, “Chris” places the body at the centre of an album grappling with gender, sexuality and desire. Every song references body parts and/or fluids: Chris is hungry for the bodies of others, tasting tears, grabbing at throats and spitting on men. If this sounds cannibalistic, a reference to Goya’s Saturn Devouring His Son confirms desire isn’t always harmless.

Letissier is fascinated by her own body, too: her ability to bruise, bleed, hurt and heal. “A swollen eye is four days/Of curious calm,” she sings on “The Walker”, as harmonies hit every other word like a pulse. “Such pains can be a delight.”

All this is set to percussion-heavy Eighties melodies that are both eccentric and tight. Quirks of French pronunciation are deliberately destabilising: on “Damn (what must a woman do)”, “wo-man” sounds more like “poor man”. “Doesn’t Matter” is frantic but catchy, full of overlapping, offbeat syllables. Chris plays with subversive structures and bold lyrics, but keeps snappy pop hooks at its heart. 

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This article appears in the 26 Sep 2018 issue of the New Statesman, The Tory Brexit crisis