Three years after the extended re-release of her debut ‘Chaleur Humaine’, Christine & The Queens are back with her second studio album ‘Chris’. The album offers an interesting exploration into androgyny and sexuality, and in doing so what appears to me to be a subtle, yet poignant, critique of the ‘pop star’ stereotype.
After looking briefly into the mastermind behind it all Heloise Letissier’s background (in addition to quite obviously being French), it comes as no surprise that she is a thespian. Touched upon in the first album, ‘Chris’ is named after her male alter-ego and looking at the album artwork you can see a Letissier who looks decidedly more masculine.
The aptly named opener ‘Comme ci’ really does set the tone for the rest of the album. It’s a firm grasp of the hand which gives you a taste of what is to come; a trip inside the mind of ‘Chris’.
‘Girlfriend’, featuring American funk artist Dam Funk, was undoubtedly the perfect choice for the album’s single. The track is an amalgamation of all of the genres Letissier taps into over the course of the album, showcasing a focus on 80s inspired funk and synth pop. The clean lead vocals coupled with multi-tracked hushed harmonised backing vocals makes for a sexy single which I believe sums up ‘Chris’ perfectly.
There is also a clear electronic influence laced throughout the album. ‘Goya Soda’ harnesses an ambient electro pop vibe, with ‘Feel So Good’ adopting an almost old school R&B feel, peppered with speech and samples which actually left me in mind of Salt-N-Pepa’s, ‘Push It’.
There is no denying that Letissier is an exceptional vocalist which ‘Chris’ undoubtedly, and quite rightly, showcases. In some of the more stripped back tracks such as ‘The Walker’ and ‘What’s-her-face’, Letissier gets to show off her vocals without as many distractions, offering an almost welcome break from the overwhelming upbeat tone the album exudes.
In terms of criticism, the only thing I could really say is some people may find the album a bit ‘samey’. However, sometimes we can be a bit too quick to assume this as a negative critique. I think an album with a firm direction and identity in a case like ‘Chris’, should actually be commended. The album’s subject matter itself is concerned largely with the issue of self-identity and empowerment, therefore, the fact the album has such a strong direction is very much in-keeping with its content making for a final product which not only sounds gorgeous, but has real purpose.
‘Chris’ almost certainly succeeds in its stride to be something different. Yes, many other artists may have alter-egos and yes, Chris is no Ziggy. However, unlike artists who have tried to follow in Bowie’s footsteps in more recent times, Letissier’s character is far less confused than many. Clearly drawing on her theatrical background, after listening to this album, you not only know who Letissier is, but also know who Chris is as an individual disposition.
Disappointingly pop is now widely considered a largely manufactured copy-cat genre which many now consider constitutes as ‘bad’ music. Letissier has recaptured the idea of real artistry in the genre with ‘Chris’, creating a stunning album which is way more than just a sound and takes us back to the 80s to remind us what real pop music should be like.