Christine and the Queens – Chaleur Humaine Review

The reserved and quiet Héloïse Letissier from Nantes becomes Christine at night, in the studio and in front of thousands, even millions when you look at the view count of her videos on Youtube or her almost cult performance on The Daily Show in America in December. Before that performance, she was already a superstar in France and on the continent, but that is Christine’s domain and it is her that we shall speak of. She is being hailed as the next stage of Pop evolution with her streamlined, yet graceful arrangement and delivery along with the slickest of slick production. When you tie this to her introspective and assertive lyrics and solid Pop harmonies then you see Pop as a genre being pushed beyond it’s perceived limits. File Christine next to Grimes and FKA Twigs for acts who are pushing the boundaries of popular music. The question has to be; is she even better than her innovative contemporaries?

‘Tilted’ is the single that most people are familiar with and the track coolly announces itself with short, whirred synth chords and light, echoed overtures with a simple whispered backbeat behind it. Christine’s vocals are as clear as glass and fit around the sounds hand in glove. Her vocals swing from calm reassurance to selective bursts of fluent vocal harmony. Once the arrangement pulls back we are shown through her French rap from blocky and bold transitioning to hushed and easy tones that her range is more wider than we thought. It is a song that does so much without much effort. The sounds are minimal, yet infectious and catchy. Each hook is perfectly balanced and advanced by vocals that are masters of their surroundings. Beyond this, it is just ridiculously stylish. One of the best Pop tracks of the year. ‘iT’ is a track that opens with spaced out piano chords and vocal murmurings with Christine’s vocals isolated vocals driving the song with raspy bursts. When set against the soft nudging electronica and distorted bass samples, we see power resonating from the soft edged arrangement. The power of her self-discovering lyrics and embracing of the individual are just as potent as the vocals that deliver them. We find a contemporary, graceful ballad in ‘Saint Claude’. Between the strung out piano chords, subtle whirring synths and slightly distorted hip hop beat sample, there is yet another vocal variant in Christine’s faint falsetto alternating with her lowered tones. String sections roll in with her rising falsettos in a somewhat cheesy fashion, but it functions with the nature of the track.

Darker shifts and clasps define the rhythmic, yet mysterious track that is ‘Narcisuss Is Back’. The arrangement moves cleanly from echoed, lone vocals to rumbling electronica in the most natural fashion. Spared loud points of vibrant electronics ring out at intervals across the song. ‘No Harm Is Done’ with Tunji Ige is a piece of Hip Hop greatness with power behind each beat. It goes on to shift to a more gradual motion as the track is led by a leading bass line before easily throwing itself back into those heady beats. Christine’s vocals are complimented by Tunji’s gruff harmonies. Another example of the diversity on show. ‘Jonathan’ with Perfume Genius is a beautifully delivered, tragic swoon with Mike Hadreas’ quivering tones met with strings whilst Christine’s wistful French prose met with blocky synth chords. The song entwines electronica and string orchestras in an unheard and lifting fashion. A wonderful and dignified track. ‘Here’ is another effortless delivery of vocal variation in an imitation of the rising tones of the chords around her. Even the comparatively weaker tracks on the album feature popping beats and seamless transitions from English to French. Each track receives the respect of urgency or contemplation depending on the feel and is produced as wonderfully as Christine delivered the songs. This is quite simply Pop mastery. Pure and Simple. Remember the name, but more importantly the sound.

Christine and the Queens – Chaleur Humaine – 9/10

 

Owen Riddle @oriddleo1995

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