Héloïse Letissier slips into an alternate state of being.
Héloïse Letissier slips into an alternate state of being right from the start of Chris, her second Christine and the Queens album. A love letter to pop music, “Comme Si” finds the French pop artist escaping into music as a sanctuary where she can become who she wishes to be while indulging in her wildest, most private desires. And her metaphors blur the line between dancing to records and the act of love-making as great disco songs wont to do. Letissier sounds the freest and more importantly herself as she sings and struts to her favorite beat.
But like Christine and the Queens, “Comme Si” as an intro track marks more of what she eventually hopes to embrace as self-truth. “It” opened the English version of her debut album with one declarative statement — “I am a man now” — but Letissier spent the rest of the record bashfully pushing back against judging eyes. As much as her own reinvention as her pop project’s titular Christine explored the freedom in acting as another self, it also brought to light how one must always perform according to a certain understood role. And the audience watched her every move, waiting for her to break composure.
Chris introduces a new, bolder persona to the world of Christine and the Queens that takes the themes of the previous record to a deeper place. Letissier’s newfound voice under this guise as Chris sounds more confident in her own skin as she displays her thoughts more fearlessly. The freaky techno-pop “Damn (What Must a Woman Do)” holds nothing back about her desires as she shouts out loud about her appetite for sex. The effortlessly slick “Girlfriend” claps back to the tiring questions about her gender and sexuality. “F-f-fuck is you,” she responds, channeling the angry gasps of Michael Jackson at his most exhausted from the eyes of the media.
One of the many explicit genre pastiches of Chris, both “Damn (What Must a Woman Do)” and “Girlfriend” also have Letissier leaning very closely to her inspirations as if she’s borrowing their energy wholesale to bring out that extra push of self-confidence. She openly wore elements taken from R&B and New Wave of the ’80s on her sleeve, though she displayed them more in her previous record as pieced-together fragments of sonic blips and sly lyrical references. Chris smooths those broken shards to create more fluid grooves, and the album’s better sense of definition reflects the growth in Letissier, who sounds more at ease in the company of her beloved records.
Letissier may have adopted a more self-assured personality in Chris, but her self-perception still complicates her experiences. Relationships grow more shallow as sexual tension rises in the album, and she starts to ponder about love beyond the one-night encounter. “What if their politics was just an idea of fun,” she asks in the chorus of the Jam & Lewis homage “Feel So Good” as she grows wary of others accepting her identity. Her seek for immediate pleasure still overpowers her decisions, though even during a sexual transaction at its most vain in the case of “5 Dollars,” she writes an interaction where she craves an experience more than skin deep.
As Letissier goes about her search for genuine acceptance in the most vulnerable situations, she reminds she must overcome a series of deep pain before it gets any better. “The Walker” is filled with traumatic imagery of swollen eyes and bruised bodies; Leissier recounts her own suicidal thoughts in “Doesn’t Matter” from the sights of others morbidly lamenting a broke heart. While the process of recovery unfolds more in the lyrics of the former song, the latter outlines a glorious redemption also through its cresting synth-pop beat. She sprints out of the darkness by the song’s very peak with her sense of self reclaimed, and it’s the closest Leissier gets to taste the freedom imagined in “Comme Si” out of any moment in Chris.