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Artist Spotlight: Christine and the Queens breaks international barriers in alt music

For many international artists, it’s hard to get their work recognized in the United States, as prominent language barriers can hinder them from being noticed for their music. Yet, French artist Christine and the Queens has broken these barriers, fusing music, art and theater together to make their name one that music listeners simply haven’t forgotten since their start in 2013.

A choreographer, singer, songwriter and dancer, Héloïse Adélaïde Letissier is the face of the group, acting more as a solo artist than an actual band. He first found his musical inspiration from listening to artists such as David Bowie and Laurie Anderson, as well as watching the choreography of Michael Jackson, which led them to pursue the art in the mid-2000s.

After years of conceptualizing, Letissier released their first EP, “Nuit 17 à 52,” making his debut on the French album chart SNEP for the first time. With songs that were both in English and French such as “The Loving Cup” and “Photo Souvenirs,” Christine and the Queens slowly started gaining traction amongst French and English listeners, helping them promote their first album just a year later, “Chaleur Humaine.”

“Chaleur Humaine” focused on Letissier’s coming to terms with their sexuality, as at the time they identified as a queer woman, and songs like “iT” and “Narcissus Is Back” truly encapsulated the feelings of confusion, perseverance and determination that come with trying to find one’s self in a society full of misconstructed gender norms. Later that year, Letissier won the Victoires de la Musique for Best Female Artist, and the album was reissued through Atlantic Records in the United States.

In 2016, the singer was asked to perform at BBC Radio 1’s Live Lounge, covering Beyoncé’s “Sorry” and debuting new performances of their songs “Girlfriend” and “Titled.” Two years later, Letissier’s love for music from the 1980s influenced their second album, “Chris.”

This new project saw Letissier flashback to their past relationships, but also saw them questioning gender norms and traditional society even more, causing them to venture into their own battles with their sexuality and gender identity. A moving album, “Chris” proved Letissier’s maturity and vulnerability in their work, a sign that alternative pop music could tackle tougher subject material when put in the right hands.

Christine and the Queens shocked fans everywhere soon after with their brief jump into pop music after being featured on Charli XCX’s “Gone” from her 2019 album, “Charli.” Just three years later, the singer worked with XCX again on the track “New Shapes” alongside Caroline Polachek, which was an iconic moment in their career, signaling that they could work with anyone from any genre.

Before the COVID-19 pandemic hit, it didn’t take long for Christine and the Queens to create more music, dropping “La vita nuova” in early 2020. Its standout track, “People, I’ve been sad,” encapsulated the loneliness that many queer individuals experience, especially in a society that continuously regresses and progresses in many directions. Also, it is now a song many of the musician’s fans relate to because of the stress the pandemic caused. Another important moment on the album was Letissier’s collaboration with Polachek again on the title track, seeing another merging of genres and backgrounds in alternative music.

Following their third album, Christine and the Queens through an important identity change, now using he/him pronouns and going by the surname Redcar, which led to more self-reflection and a change in sonic direction on “Redcar les adorables étoiles (prologue).” Dropping last November, the album was all in French, but saw the artist at his most confident and comfortable, garnering him a performance at this year’s Coachella Valley Music and Arts Festival next month.

Now, Christine and the Queens is set to curate London’s Meltdown Festival after model Grace Jones took on the same role last year. In a press release, Letissier said:

“I will actually pick musicians that have some gut-wrenching quality, and I wish for all of us to stroll around in those ten days being rejuvenated by artistic gestures. Discoveries. The time Meltdown takes is quite exquisite, the abundance feels appropriately generous too. We need this for ourselves, art in the city, art for the citizen, collective catharsis, a wonderful purge of the soul. I hope you’ll enjoy this glorious edition and again, long live poetry that burns and musicians crazy and brave enough to keep going - they are shaping the emotions of the future. Let’s thank them all!”

As Christine and the Queens prepares for arguably one of the biggest years of their career, it’s evident that the French singer should not be ignored, as they see the world with the hope that things can change through the help of art and music.


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