You can call her Chris: Christine and the Queens tour their ‘intense’ second album
Gig of the Week: French singer Héloïse Letissier delves deeper into her queerness at the RDS
Héloïse Letissier aka Christine and the Queens: breaking pop music’s paradigms
With a new ’do, a new attitude and a shortened name, Christine and the Queens is back as Chris, and, in an exploration of gender, sexuality and queerness, her live show is an emotional and physical workout that’s leaving a trail of five-star live reviews in its wake.
Born Héloïse Letissier, the French singer chose her stage name after a night out with a gang of London drag queens changed her perspective on life and identity. By choosing to be Christine, rather than Héloïse, she felt that she could toy around with this persona on her debut 2014 album Chaleur Humaine, and articulate the loneliness she experiences within her own queerness.
Chaleur Humaine was released in both French and in English, and the language on some of the songs often becomes grander and more decorative when the switch is made from her native tongue to English. The song Christine opens with “Je commence les livres par la fin et j’ai le menton haut pour un rien”, which directly translates into “I start the books by the end and I have my chin up for nothing”. However, on Titled, the English version of the song that propelled Letissier into a bigger spotlight, she goes above and beyond. “I’ll die way before Methuselah so I’ll fight sleep with ammonia,” she sings over plunking synths. As is evident in that lyrical leap, Letissier is always trying to outdo her personal best, and her second album, Chris, delves further into her personal journey as a queer woman.
It transpired that Letissier had pulled a muscle in her back in the first half of the show, such is the intensity of her dance routines and her passion onstage
Lead single Girlfriend, a G-funk, 90s R&B jam, challenges the masculinity that men can assume in a romantic relationship. Men are to be strong and women are to observe, she notes. With this idea seeping out from her music and into her own reality, this new era of Christine and the Queens sees Letissier wearing a greaser, Cry-Baby-style hairdo, sporting a more athletic body and wearing flowing shirts that allow you to see her stronger and more defined body. Her physicality plays a bigger role in her career now, as her once perfectly choreographed routines have now become more intense. Surrounded by six backing dancers, she drives the point of emotional songs like Damn (What Must a Woman Do) and 5 Dollars home by adding a physical narrative. Using the theatrics of smoke machines, dry ice and moving screens, she turns this show into a piece of performance art.
A review from her Philadelphia show earlier this month says that it “blurs lines between art forms and breaks pop music paradigms”. The Independent’s Alexandra Pollard interviewed the singer after her Berlin gig in October and it transpired that Letissier had pulled a muscle in her back in the first half of the show, such is the intensity of her dance routines and her passion onstage. But that didn’t slow her down, Pollard says, and her performance grew “wilder” as the show continued.
Playing the Main Hall in Dublin’s RDS on November 30th, this show sees Letissier leap from playing a jam-packed tent at a mid-afternoon slot at 2016’s Longitude Festival to her first headlining gig in Ireland. This gig unfortunately clashes with Other Voices down in Dingle, Co Kerry, and with Lauryn Hill’s gig in Dublin’s 3Arena, so music lovers have some big decisions to make. But, at the rate that Letissier is moving at artistically, this show sounds like a seminal moment in what will hopefully be a long and rich career.
Tickets are still available to buy for Christine and the Queens’ gig in Dublin’s RDS Main Hall and they’re going for €54.50 on ticketmaster.ie.