Lyrically and musically beautiful, however not enough to show what this artist is really capable of.
Héloïse Letissier, a French performer who goes by the name Christine And The Queens, is one talented woman showing Britain what they’ll be missing when/if Brexit finally happens. Chaleur Humaine, her English-language debut, kicks off with ‘iT,’ one of her most underrated songs, which highlights her genderfluidity and follows statements that she’d prefer to appear genderless as a performer. “I’m a man now,” she passionately sings. “Cause I won… I’ll rule over all my dead impersonations.” The lyrics are poetic and poignant at a time where genderfluidity and transgender individuals are becoming far more accepted within western society.
Whilst Christine And The Queens is a pop artist, her lyrics and tone throughout Chaleur Humaine go far deeper in emotion and meaning. For an English listener, some meanings might get lost in translation, however its beauty is made more impressive considering that each song was in her native French for its 2014 release there. Some lyrics do remain untranslated and it is easy to see how this might take away some of the experience for the non-bilingual majority, yet this arguably adds more to the experience. The romantic and musical French tongue gently reminds us that this is a uniquely French artist – it pays not to be xenophobic – and who doesn’t love a little air of mystery?
‘Tilted,’ originally titled ‘Christine,’ sits as the third track on both versions and is the single that Christine And The Queens performed on The Graham Norton Show to hook the British audience. Its minimalist electronic sound and steady beat is captivating, with the song itself touching upon a feeling that often isn’t observed by songwriters and it is infectiously danceable – something to be said for most of the album. “I’m actually good / Can’t help it if we’re tilted,” sings Christine, feeling out of place and imbalanced, perhaps in another nod to genderfluidity.
Another gem of Chaleur Humaine is ‘Paradis Perdus,’ its reinvention of Kanye West’s 808s & Heartbreak track ‘Heartless.’ It wrenches the chorus into something darker and smoother, reinventing the meaning of the lyrics as well as the tone of the song. In addition, tracks featuring American artists Perfume Genius (‘Jonathan’) and Tunji Ige (‘No Harm Is Done’) are certainly highlights and introduce vocal diversity.
Yet, despite its great flair and humanity, Chaleur Humaine as a mere album is certainly not enough to really show off what Christine And The Queens has to offer. What is evident from her performances on television, at festivals such as Latitude and Glastonbury, and other live shows – a winter tour of the UK sold out quickly, including two nights at Brixton’s O2 Academy – that Christine And The Queens was born to perform live. The music is not complete without her iconic dancing and backing dancers, channeling Michael Jackson and being a truly integral part of what this act can bring. It is clear from the likes of ‘Tilted’ and ‘iT’ that Chaleur Humaine‘s renditions lack so much depth and passion in comparison to their live versions. The contrast is quite staggering. Here, each vocal track is almost robotic.
It has been considered that Christine And The Queens could the lead the way to reinventing current pop music. With this in mind, Chaleur Humaine is disappointing. The artist, however, is not. If Christine really does aim for such a role, she will have to transfer her passionate performance into her recordings.
Chaleur Humaine is out now via Because Music