Christine and the Queens: Paranoïa, Angels, True Love review – a grief-stricken masterpiece

(Because Music)
A howl of despair sublimated into beautiful experimental pop, the artist’s fourth album is his best yet

When Christine and the Queens first appeared in the anglophone world in 2015, the name was an alias for Héloïse Letissier: a French artist with an extraordinary line in immaculately cool, obliquely catchy, 80s-flavoured synthpop that mused on queer identity. By 2018, Letissier had become Chris – the eponymous, androgynous protagonist of her funky second album. Then, last year, the musician announced he was now using male pronouns as well as another moniker: Redcar, also the title character of his third album, Redcar les Adorables Étoiles.

Christine and the Queens: Paranoïa, Angels, True Love album artwork
Christine and the Queens: Paranoïa, Angels, True Love album artwork Photograph: PR

That record, a reflective, slippery, not-quite-satisfying collection sung in French, was met with a muted reception. Now it seems simply a warmup for this masterpiece. Letissier’s clearly rocky path to self-realisation has been entangled with seismic grief – in 2019, his mother died – and Paranoïa, Angels, True Love is a howl of despair sublimated into astonishingly beautiful experimental pop, drenched in warm celestial light, punctured by spikes of confused pain. On Tears Can Be So Soft, loss is bluntly aired – “I miss my mama at night” – over a syncopated raindrops-on-the-roof beat and a minuscule snippet of Marvin Gaye. A distorted “fucking” is bellowed over sweet Johann Pachelbel strings on Full of Life. True Love couches romance in inescapable grief (“make me forget my mother”), the sound of a heart monitor and blasts of static.

The trademark nostalgia remains – trip-hop and 80s soul and dance-pop provide sonic templates, while Madonna appears as a deity-like narrator – but it has been warped, hauntingly, and interspersed with the language of contemporary rap (co-producer Mike Dean has worked extensively with Kanye). Hypnotically melodic, clever, stylish, serious, fun, addictively unexpected and euphorically danceable, it’s the kind of pop they don’t make any more.


Rachel Aroesti

The GuardianTramp

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