Equal parts melancholy and determined, masculine and feminine, soft and tough, Christine and the Queens’ iconic sound is an elegantly sewn patchwork of contradictions. So enmeshed are these concepts, that they become one, and this fluidity in theme mirrors the languid rhythmicity of her music.
Born and raised in Paris, Héloïse Letissier was expelled from theatre school and moved to London. Here she found solace in gay bars and became fascinated with the confidence and theatrical expression of the drag acts she encountered. Inspired, she endeavoured to create and push boundaries with equal fearlessness and ‘The Queens’ in her name pay homage to them.
As her career progressed we witnessed the birth of alter ego Chris, Ziggy Stardust-esque in concept, haircut and assertion. Through Chris, she presents her vision for the modern women. Finding inspiration in Madonna and Janet Jackson, she explores feminine sexuality but with added grit. Chris offers a slick self-portrait aimed for today’s backdrop, testing contemporary limits.
The latest EP La vita nuova brings musical euphoria, the kind of which we have come to expect from Chris but nonetheless remains breath taking. Vulnerable lyrics delivered in an entrancing amalgamation of French and English overlay dynamic, celestial soundscapes of synth and pouncing beat, perfectly suited to the elaborate dance routines that famously accompany many a Christine and the Queens’ track. Each song is wistful and appears effortless but there remains consistent underlying tension in the clear cut vocals that invokes the image of a swan, one that appears calm on top but works furiously just under the water’s surface.
Despite the inherent impact that comes guaranteed with a Chris creation, there is an element of disappointment to be found in this latest one. While an EP release is intended to stoke anticipation for an upcoming album, La vita nuova does not feel suited to grab the necessary attention. It starts to feel safe, lacking experimentation, as though the tracks could slot unnoticed into any previous record.
However ‘Mountains (we met)’ is a saving grace, as we are confronted with something new. Here, the vocals are sure footed and determined, unmasked and stripped back, without the familiar synth.
Maybe this is a taste of what to expect in the future, as Chris continues to embellish her already era defining legacy.
Image: Peter Matthews via Flickr