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Christine and the Queens, French pop monarch

 

It’s through the grace of her music and the power of her stage presence – riding a razor’s edge of emotion – that Christine and the Queens conquered the world of pop. With an appearance in America’s prestigious T Magazine, her consecration is now complete

Christine and the Queens by Jeff Hahn.  

Christine and the Queens - Nuit 17 à 52 

Witnessing the birth of a great musical artist is a rare privilege in France. Indeed the phenomenon is infrequent anywhere, but especially so in a Gallic context marked by a succession of “best groups of the week” (which rarely last much longer) and by the return of old glories with a faint whiff of naphthalene about them. But then there was Christine and the Queens…

Christine just appeared one evening on our screens, at the Victoires de la Musique in February 2014. With the furious passion of gold-rush pioneers, a handful of aficionados had been following her since 2011, when her first tracks came out, but back then few knew that her name was really Héloïse, or that her Queens were simply whimsical creations of her unbridled imagination. On stage, Christine was alone. Her outfit, which seemed to be made from padded gold, gave her the extravagant Greta Garbo look which would soon become familiar to everyone. Christine and the Queens was competing in the “new group or stage artist” category, but she had no need to seek a coronation of this sort – she was already queen that night. With just a few transcendent lyrics, beats caressed with a few subtle strings, a few fragile gestures, Christine and the Queens was simply sublime. “The impact of this television appearance,” she confides, “allowed me to have access, at a point when I’d almost finished the album, to extra resources – a few more strings for example. But it didn’t change the essential: my search for a powerful, albeit minimalist, sound, my links to a family of sounds that’s moving towards the Kanye West side, even if that might seem surprising. With the Victoires I felt that my faith in this project really came across.” It was the start of a chain reaction that would lead her from her first supporting tours with the ubiquitous Stromae to the critical and popular success of her first full-length album, Chaleur Humaine, which came out in June 2014. 

 

 

Christine and the Queens - Narcissus is back

Since then, Christine has been on all the magazine covers in France, and seen her story develop from article to article into a modern-day legend. First, her leaving France following a break-up with a woman who wanted to become a man... Next her encounter in London with the flamboyant drag queens of Madame Jojo’s, who were supposed to have formed her famous troop of Queens if only they’d condescended to join Héloïse in her musical adventure. Inevitably, she’s seen herself assigned a role which isn’t entirely to her disliking, that of new gay icon and poet of gender confusion. But Christine and the Queens deserves better than to be reduced to a mere “phenomenon” of contemporary society. What do gender issues or sexual orientation matter when you sing with so much grace about love, hope and dreams? Her electro-pop compositions achieve such universal beauty that you can no longer tell whether Christine moves you in English (“I am a man now, and there is nothing you can do to make me change my mind”) or in French (“Je descends deux enfers plus loin pour que l’orage s’annonce” [I go down two more circles of hell to make the storm appear]), as a boy or as a girl (“Si je ne veux pas être une grande fille, je serai un petit garçon” [If I don’t want to be a big girl, I’ll be a little boy]). Combining soul and groove with great sophistication, her dizzying peregrinations conquer the listener with their disconcerting simplicity. The art of almost nothing – the creation of entire worlds from mere grains of sand – has here found its master exponent.

 

It’s in her stage appearances that her art is at its greatest. When, with a delicate gesture, she raises her hand to her eye and leaves a trace of spangled makeup, the emotion reaches its zenith; words are incapable of expressing her burlesque virtuosity. “Yes, burlesque. That’s how I see myself,” she shyly admits. Her body control, which owes much to her theatrical training, is part Buster Keaton, part Michael Jackson and part Pina Bausch. Christine and the Queens is a joy to watch because Héloïse herself is so spectacular, proving once and for all that true entertainment is not the exclusive preserve of either the U.S. or the U.K.

 

By Thibaut Wychowanok

 

Chaleur Humaine, Christine and the Queens (Because Music). Live in Paris at Zénith, september, 25.

 

“Better to die for a noble cause than to live and die a slave.” Neneh Cherry
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“Better to die for a noble cause than to live and die a slave.” Neneh Cherry

Music A performer sans frontières, Neneh Cherry has just released her new album, Broken Politics, after four years away from the recording studio. A magisterial disc, it updates her trip-hop groove for today’s troubled times. With her customary elegance, Cherry shares her emotion with respect to the world’s many injustices, lending her voice to those who are without one. A performer sans frontières, Neneh Cherry has just released her new album, Broken Politics, after four years away from the recording studio. A magisterial disc, it updates her trip-hop groove for today’s troubled times. With her customary elegance, Cherry shares her emotion with respect to the world’s many injustices, lending her voice to those who are without one.

“It’s hard to be a diamond in a rhinestone world.” Why is Dolly Parton the ultimate icon?
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“It’s hard to be a diamond in a rhinestone world.” Why is Dolly Parton the ultimate icon?

Music The 72-year old country singer is the unexpected muse of Gucci’s spring 2019 collection. Singer, actress and writer, she continues to seduce with her wild stage outfits and her awesome one-liners. Those millennial popstars have got nothing on Dolly. The 72-year old country singer is the unexpected muse of Gucci’s spring 2019 collection. Singer, actress and writer, she continues to seduce with her wild stage outfits and her awesome one-liners. Those millennial popstars have got nothing on Dolly.

Dandyish musical sophisticate caught somewhere between Daft Punk and the classical cannon, but who really is Chilly Gonzales?
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Dandyish musical sophisticate caught somewhere between Daft Punk and the classical cannon, but who really is Chilly Gonzales?

Music Canadian composer, musician and rapper, Chilly Gonzales forms the central focus of “Shut Up and Play the Piano”, a documentary that hit theatres on October 3rd. Directed by German journalist Philipp Jedicke, the film explores his path to date, and his dual personality. Canadian composer, musician and rapper, Chilly Gonzales forms the central focus of “Shut Up and Play the Piano”, a documentary that hit theatres on October 3rd. Directed by German journalist Philipp Jedicke, the film explores his path to date, and his dual personality.

Meeting with Lenny Kravitz, unbeatable rock icon
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Meeting with Lenny Kravitz, unbeatable rock icon

Music With his inimitable look and solar charisma, he embodies the archetypal rock star, on whom time has no empire. A one-man band capable of playing all his own instruments, Lenny Kravitz is back with a new album, “Raise Vibration”, a groovy and militant manifesto, the eleventh opus in his career. Weaving gospel and Native American chants into his rhythms, in homage to his black and part-Cherokee roots, Kravitz also celebrates figures such as Johnny Cash and Michael Jackson on this vibrant and intimate disc. Numéro caught up with him af ter his stomping Paris concert this June. With his inimitable look and solar charisma, he embodies the archetypal rock star, on whom time has no empire. A one-man band capable of playing all his own instruments, Lenny Kravitz is back with a new album, “Raise Vibration”, a groovy and militant manifesto, the eleventh opus in his career. Weaving gospel and Native American chants into his rhythms, in homage to his black and part-Cherokee roots, Kravitz also celebrates figures such as Johnny Cash and Michael Jackson on this vibrant and intimate disc. Numéro caught up with him af ter his stomping Paris concert this June.

4 things you should know about Lana Del Rey, the vintage star with an irresistible pout
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4 things you should know about Lana Del Rey, the vintage star with an irresistible pout

Music With her vintage allure and her throbbing vocals, Lana Del Ray is nothing short of captivating. Just a week after the unexpected release of her “Mariners Apartment Complex”, she unveils “Venice Bitch”, a 10-minute track that wraps up summer perfectly, while announcing her sixth album, “Normal Fucking Rockwell”. Numéro looks at four must-know facts about the diva with the irresistible pout. With her vintage allure and her throbbing vocals, Lana Del Ray is nothing short of captivating. Just a week after the unexpected release of her “Mariners Apartment Complex”, she unveils “Venice Bitch”, a 10-minute track that wraps up summer perfectly, while announcing her sixth album, “Normal Fucking Rockwell”. Numéro looks at four must-know facts about the diva with the irresistible pout.

With “Love S.O.S.”, Justice serves up a cocktail of strip-tease, voyeurism and violence
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With “Love S.O.S.”, Justice serves up a cocktail of strip-tease, voyeurism and violence

Music Currently promoting “Woman Worldwide”, the live version of their “Woman” album, the Justice duo have delivered a video that is as sexy as it is violent to accompany their new track, “Love S.O.S.”. Currently promoting “Woman Worldwide”, the live version of their “Woman” album, the Justice duo have delivered a video that is as sexy as it is violent to accompany their new track, “Love S.O.S.”.