“I’m a man now,” declared the titular lead of Christine and the Queens on the first track of their 2014 debut. “There’s nothing we can do to change her mind,” the background vocals cooed. It’s a straightforward statement from one of modern pop’s most libidinous personas. French singer Héloïse Letissier, an openly pansexual woman, uses the assertive Christine as a bold and confident alter ego.
Christine and the Queens was an excellent pop debut brimming with gorgeous songwriting and production. With gentle percussion and minimal synth instrumentals, the album built a promising skeletal framework.
If the first album was Letissier’s musical skeleton, then this year’s Chris is all meat, muscle, and beating heart.
Opener “Comme si on s’aimait” begins with the slow build of a massive, warbling synth chord, which quickly gives way to fuzzy electro-bass and driving percussion. The song’s title, which translates to “It’s as if we loved each other,” is about the connection between Letissier and the fans who play her music. The music is a show of confidence—“my nerve passes for rude”—and us playing it is a form of acceptance.
Though it opens with a triumphant retro-pop anthemic, it would be incorrect to categorize Christine and the Queens as a French HAIM. Directly following “Comme si” is “Girlfriend,” a euphoric blast of 80s funk. “The walker” is more modern and somber, while “What’s-her-face” and “Make some sense” are impassioned and dynamic ballads.
The highs on the tracklist, most of which are mentioned above, are damn-near inescapable. “Make some sense” is strikingly gorgeous, and its resigned chorus speaks on the frustration of an emotionally lopsided relationship: “Make some sense out of it all / ‘Cause I can’t make it for you.” The most pleasant listen might be “5 dollars,” which is as warm and inviting as a soft summer breeze.
As for the lows? You’ll have to be a bit pickier to find those. The quirky production of “Goya soda” and “Damn (what must a woman do)” might not stick with as many listeners, even though every track here has enough strengths to counter the few weaknesses.
Christine and the Queens are an essential listen. An interesting persona with a backstory deep enough to follow, Letissier also crafts music that balances complexity and accessibility as if they’re one and the same.
Key Tracks: “Comme si,” “5 dollars,” “The walker,” “Make some sense”