The songs of “Chris,” the newest album from electronic pop French artist Christine and the Queens, are all upbeat, dancey and fun. The album is even more reminiscent of ‘80s pop-funk music than her past work, showing obvious influence from artists like Prince, Michael Jackson and Madonna. Combined with Christine’s signature and beautiful blending of English French and Spanish lyrics, “Chris” has more exciting elements than the average electro-pop album.
However, the unique dynamics of “Chris” go beyond the bilingual lyrics and retro sound. This album offers an unapologetic, honest and introspective take on complex topics like gender identity and fluidity. “Christine,” or “Chris,” is a persona Hélöise Letissier created for herself in 2010 after going through a breakup and dropping out of theater school. Letissier used this second identity to explore her gender, pansexuality and role as an artist. “The Queens” represent the group of drag queens that danced with Letissier during her first musical performances.
In writing her second album, “Chris,” Letissier wanted to address societal taboos against women who are blunt, forward and expressive. The album perfectly demonstrates Letissier’s complex identities and willingness to push societal boundaries through artistic expression.
Letissier bravely and creatively opens up in her lyrics that deal with a vulnerable range of emotions and concepts. The album’s first single “Girlfriend” addresses stereotypes about gender fluidity and her own sexuality. In “Doesn’t Matter,” one of the particularly upbeat and poppy songs on the album, Letissier questions the existence of a God and sings about dealing with suicidal thoughts.
She openly sings about her sexual desires in “Damn (what must a woman do),” exploring how women feel “shame and isolation” about sex. Letissier uses Spanish to sing certain lyrics that are somewhat crude when translated into English. Certain lyrics call out people who stared at Letissier on the street or whispered about her behind her back. The bold lyrics Letissier writes, both in English and Spanish, are explicit and not polite. Some tracks are borderline aggressive.
However, the unexpected, alarming and honest moments of “Chris” are what make it such a memorable and refreshing album. Letissier uses her music to explore and open up to herself and society. She navigates her identity as a performer and “Chris” examines how it feels to be a woman, how it feels to be masculine and what Letissier’s queer sexuality means to her.
Part of the album’s strength lies in the subtle way Letissier addresses her meaningful lyrics. The tracks are upbeat and fun to listen to. Letissier’s voice and Spanish lyrics are simply pretty. Most of them don’t sound like songs that ask the listener to reflect on issues and concepts as complex and personal as the ones Letissier sings about, which is why the thought-provoking power of the album is that much more ambitious, intricate and empowering.