QUICK TAKES: Christine and the Queens reinvent Héloïse Letissier as ‘Chris’

Christine and the Queens, Chris and the Queens, Christine + the Queens, Héloïse Letissier, Heloise Letissier

Christine and the Queens, “Chris.’

French alt-pop superstar Christine and the Queens, born Héloïse Letissier, has returned with a sophomore debut album, reinventing herself as simply “Chris.”

Christine and the Queens
Sept. 21

Even when she was first making waves in the U.S. three years ago (Christine and the Queens opened for Marina and the Diamonds in her North American debut), Letissier was already beginning to conquer her native France. A Time Magazine cover later, and adoring fans that include Madonna and Elton John, Chris now looks to conquer America.

The singer-songwriter also self-produced the record, also called Chris, a slick high art brand of of synth pop. Letissier’s love of poetry shines through in the lyrics, adding an extra depth to the bouncy songs. Chris’ unique vocal delivery exudes shades of Tegan & Sara, Sara Bareilles and a hint of Dua Lipa, with a cool, smooth and sultry tone. Recorded in separate English and French versions, the LP opens with “Comme si.” This soaring atmospheric song featuring a myriad of different synths and percussive sounds. It’s also the beginning of a departure from Letissier’s debut record, which featured more sonic sparkle with strings, shimmering piano and funkier bass.

The album continues with “Girlfriend,” featuring musician Dam-Funk. It’s a laidback pop jam with a single clean guitar riff over a restrained loop, along with a choppy continuous vocal cadence. “The Walker” features a more ’80s-synth-influenced beat, with Chris mixing mournful lyrics with beautiful soaring melodies. Letissier’s production masterfully allows the vocal melodies to complement the instrumental ones, best exemplified on the layered “Doesn’t Matter.” The French accent adds to Chris’ unique vocal prowess, even when she’s singing the English versions of the songs.

“Goya Soda” is another slick, bouncy track accented by a rolling synth bass line. “Damn (What Must a Woman Do)” picks up the pace with a lush trippy instrumental, sounding like an improved version of a mid-aughts Timbaland production. “All this soft skin brings me pain,” Chris sings on “Whats-Her-Face,” a spacey ethereal ballad.

“Feel So Good” is a slick synth jam featuring one of the biggest beats on the album. “We’re all losers to somebody,” Chris laments. Letissier then shifts to the quiet ballad “Make Some Sense.” The album closes with “The Stranger,” a song that mixes all of the album’s prior sonic elements to close with a full pop soundscape. Chris provides a platform for Letissier’s inevitable rise to the U.S. pop charts, and is a voice from which you’ll be hearing much more soon.

Follow writer Mike DeWald at Twitter.com/mike_dewald.

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