Frenching on the dance floor
Hello. The nature of this review is going to be atypical because the situation found while listening to it is atypical for this particular listener.
Christine and the Queens is the stage name of French musician Héloïse Letissier, a solo act who’s been operating since 2010, making synth-layered art pop that incorporates themes of queerness and being a social outsider. Letissier’s new record, Chris, finds this particular brand of synth-pop energized and ready to roar at a run time of 45 minutes. Chris is an intentional rebrand on the part of Letissier, seeking to craft a persona as a strong, sexual and more aggressive woman who refuses to apologize for her actions. The album is a portrait of this persona, brash and dancing her ass off. A record that traverses the spaces of techno, funk, and dream pop–sometimes in the same track, as eclectic as the character it conceptualizes. With a clean production and the perfect amount of French flair, Christine and the Queens have produced a record with no blemishes, queer pop you could dance or cry to, or even both.
And yet for whatever reason, it misses the mark.
All the qualities that make this album what it is: electronic, funky, LGBT-supportive, are all things that should really have won one over on first listen. There is no song on this album to be described as bad, each song is too clean and well-rounded for that. And yet, when this album spins on for a listen-through, it all just slips right through. It could be the repetitious pop-loops that Letissier plays with or maybe her dream-filtered, accented vocals that make discerning lyrics a bit of a game, but whatever it is, it allows the record to just fade into the background.
To be fair, there are definitely enjoyable moments. “Girlfriend” is a funky track that incorporates a perfect guitar riff. “Damn (what must a woman do)” has a techno breakdown halfway through that could be called ingenious. “Goya Soda” is a favorite, with a deliciously layered amount of synth, and also maybe listeners didn’t know Goya makes soda products, which is pretty nuts as someone who just buys their beans. At its best, Chris recalls the music of Prince under the influence of Letissier’s unique personality and combined with her more electronic sensibilities.
Unfortunately, the experiences with this record have been, overall, difficult. Some are not within the target demographic of this record, which must have something to do with this particular reaction. Whoever reads this review and actually likes the sound that’s described, please listen to it. There are people out there who are going to love this record, while some may differ.