Spot On: Androgynous pop sensation Christine and the Queens

The new heroine of French chanson recorded her second studio album in both French and English. Striking? No, Christine transcends national and linguistic borders. It’s the story of her life.

Her bilingualism is of course particularly interesting from the perspective of her career. Starting in 2014, it rose like a comet, when her album debut was not only well-received in France, but in the Eng - lish-speaking world too.

Héloïse “Christine” Letissier was actually raised with an interest in language. Her father taught English literature at the University of Nantes and her mother taught French and Latin at secondary school. Nevertheless, as a young girl, she did not think that she was entirely normal.

She judged herself to be too ugly and too rude. She was told not to expect too much from life and she isolated herself. In 2010, a broken heart led her to exchange Paris for London, where she ran into three drag queens in a nightclub in Soho . “I was alone, and they came to ask me whether everything was okay,” Letissier told Channel 4. “No, I told them honestly, and so they decided to take care of this little insecure French girl.”

The Queens are thus not her back-up band, but a tribute to these three “mother figures” who got her life back on the right track. Héloïse became far more self-conscious. Christine became her androgynous and pansexual alter-ego. And yet it was a great surprise that after a few less successful EPs following the hit “Christine” (“Tilted” to English-speakers), Christine and the Queens became a phenomenon and that her album debut Chaleur humaine sold 1.3 million copies worldwide.

That album is about her lonely teenaged years during which she had a very complicated relationship with herself and her body. In Belgium too, both in Flanders and Wallonia, that album made it all the way to the top spot on the album charts.

Expectations for the next album were thus very high. A dozen new tracks sketches the transformation from an insecure, shy girl to a self-confident young thirty-year-old woman. “I could have taken a fancy producer in LA and made pop shit on my second album, but no. I wanted to make my music even more personal,” she says in the press release for the occasionally very funky sounding Chris. “The album title captures an urge to shed something, as though I literally had to throw off a harness to become even more penetrating.”

CHRISTINE AND THE QUEENS 12/10, 20.00, Vorst Nationaal/Forest National, www.vorstnationaal.be, www.forestnational.be

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