Like all of the other millennials who have continued to watch “The Daily Show” after the departure of Jon Stewart, I was introduced a couple of nights ago to the artist Christine and the Queens. Christine and the Queens is actually just one person, 27-year-old French performer Heloise Letissier, a self-identified pansexual and “half lady”. But it is the combination of her two personas, Heloise and Christine, that makes her performances so enigmatic. Saying that watching Christine and the Queens perform gave me the feels is a major understatement.
At the age of 22, during a bout of post-break-up depression, Letissier left her college in Paris and fled to London, where she became enamored with the drag scene and was befriended by three Soho drag artists from the now-closed Madame Jojo’s, who heard her humming and singing along to songs and encouraged her to use her own voice and make music. In an interview with Billboard, she said, “Without them, I would probably not be making music. It was like a revelation, because precisely with drag queens, all the characters they have are like survival techniques as well. You take what pains you and what hurts you and what makes you feel small, and you turn it into a character to be in power again. I was at a time in my life when I was a bit lost and depressed, and seeing those girls walking every night on stage in characters with names after insults they received, it felt like I could maybe find a way to do the same thing without being a drag queen. They were like, ‘Well, if you feel helpless and insecure, you should use that and write about it.’ They nursed me a bit. They were fairy godmothers in a way.” Letissier named her act Christine and the Queens in tribute to them.
Her look is reminiscent of Michael Jackson and Marlene Dietrich, both classically androgynous performers. In an interview with Buzzfeed’s Katherine Bernard she said, “I felt empowered looking at a drag queen because of how she played with gender, because of how she didn’t give a fuck, and she was both really fun and tragic at the same time. This is basically everything I want to be and give.”
Christine wears mens’ trouser suits with the blouse fully buttoned, not revealing any skin except for the small band of bare ankle between her trouser legs and the tops of her shoes, her hands, and her face, which she most uses to express herself. One of my favorite descriptions of her dance style that I’ve come across is from Katherine Bernard’s article, where Bernard described Letissier’s style as “butterfly vogue”, which I absolutely love because it gives credit to both the classical ballet training and the stylized vogue movement that is evident in Letissier’s choreography.
So after watching Christine and the Queens perform three songs from her first album in the US on “The Daily Show”, I immediately went to the altar of the internet gods and prayed for deliverance from ignorance. And I loved what I found, which was her original French album “Chaleur Humaine”, which translates from French as “human warmth”. Her US album, which has just come out, is titled “Christine and the Queens” and features several of the same songs from “Chaleur Humaine”, but with slightly more English and a few new tracks.
While I have really only listened to “Chaleur Humaine”, what I listened to has blown my mind. The entire album is produced with gorgeous simplicity, often letting her vocals, sometimes rasping and defiant and other times whispered and vulnerable, lead the way. Add nuanced and intensely intimate lyrics and some killer beats that are impossible not to dance to…and I think I’m in love, with both insecure and self-deprecating Heloise and the bold and fully formed Christine. Either way, watching and listening to Christine and the Queens inspires me and empowers me to be exactly who I want to be, a very flawed and complicated human being capable of great warmth and life.
In conclusion, my friends and mon amis, the Taste Maven proudly and whole-heartedly gives Christine and the Queens The Taste Maven Stamp of Approval. Now enjoy the music video for “Saint Claude”, which won Best Music Video of the Year, and the music video for “Christine”:
For Pitchfork’s fabulous review of Christine and the Queen’s US release, “Christine and the Queens” click here.
I would also, once again, suggest checking out Katherine Bernard’s “Becoming Christine and the Queens” on Buzzfeed here.