Christine and the Queens
Héloïse Adelaïde Letissier
1 June 1988
Héloïse Adélaïde Letissier (French: [elɔiz adəlaid lətisje]; born 1 June 1988), known professionally as Christine and the Queens or occasionally simply Chris, is a French singer, songwriter, and record producer. Born and raised in Nantes, she started learning piano at the age of four, and found inspiration in one of London's clubs while studying. Christine released a series of extended plays throughout 2011 – 2013.
Her debut album, Chaleur humaine (2014), received critical acclaim, reached number 2 on both French and UK charts, and was certified diamond in France being also best selling debut record in the United Kingdom. In 2018, she released her second album, Chris, to further critical acclaim. It was ranked album of the year by Clash, The Guardian, and The Independent, and placed in top-ten of twelve other best-of lists. "Girlfriend" was recognized by Time as song of the year. In reaction to her mother's death, Christine released in 2020 an EP La Vita Nuova, with some critics calling it her strongest work up to that point. Time again named her song, then "People, I've Been Sad", the song of the year.
In 2016, Christine was ranked number 1 in Vanity Fair's list of most powerful and influential French people who “promote French genius”, ahead of country's president. The next year, Forbes placed her on its list of 30 most influential and talented people under 30, and Time included her on its list of next generation leaders twice – in 2016 and 2018. Her accolades include four Victories of Music awarded by French Ministry of Culture.
Héloïse Adélaïde Letissier was born on 1 June 1988 in Nantes, France. Her father, Georges Letissier, teaches English literature at the University of Nantes and specialises in Victorian era literature. Her mother, Martine Letissier, taught both French and Latin at a local middle school. Letissier began learning to play the piano at the age of four, classical dance at five, and then modern-jazz. Her parents recommended her writers such as Sarah Waters and Judith Butler, whose works served both as inspiration and reference in Letissier's youth. She attended Lycée Clemenceau learning theatre, and then Lycée Fénelon secondary school in Paris learning literature. She later studied at the Department of Arts of École normale supérieure de Lyon (ENS Lyon), and also studied drama at the Lyon Regional Conservatory (fr).
In 2010, Letissier had to leave the theater conservatory, was after romantic break-up and depressed. She made a trip to London, and was inspired by the work of local drag queen musicians, including Russella, at the Soho’s nightclub Madame Jojo's. The queens then became 'the Queens' in her stage name as a tribute. As soon as she returned to France, she left the ENSL grande école in the middle of the second year, to devote herself fully to the musical project now called "Christine and the Queens". She dedicated many of her creations to them, and to all transgender individuals, describing her genre as "freakpop".
Christine and the Queens gave her first recital at a small Lyon club in 2010. She released her debut extended play, Miséricorde, in 2011 with Marc Lumbroso (Jean-Jacques Goldman's producer). Second EP, titled Mac Abbey, followed in 2012 with minor hits "Narcissus Is Back" and "Cripple". The same year she was the opening act for Lykke Li, The Dø, and Woodkid. Christine won the Best Discovered Act award, known as "Découverte", at the music festival Printemps de Bourges, and also won the "Première Francos" award at the Les Francofolies de La Rochelle festival. Then she signed with the independent label Because Music.
In 2013, Christine was the opening act for Lilly Wood and the Prick and Gaëtan Roussel. On 3 June, she released the single, and also EP of the same name, titled "Nuit 17 à 52", which garnered her first charting on the official French SNEP albums chart. The song was the first single of her forthcoming studio album.
Christine and the Queens' debut album, Chaleur humaine, was first released in France on 2 June 2014. She was almost the sole writer and producer, track "Paradis perdus" is a cover of 1973 French song. Besides "Nuit 17 à 52", three singles were released: "Saint Claude", "Christine", and "Paradis perdus". "Christine" is the French version of "Cripple" earlier released in 2012. The album reached number 2 on the French chart, and was certified diamond there. She toured France; at the end of the year, Madonna invited Christine to dance with her on stage during her concert at the Bercy Arena, Paris.
For the American market, the single "Tilted", English version of "Cripple"/"Christine", was released on 3 March 2015 under the Neon Gold Records label. Christine then toured there for promotion with Marina and the Diamonds. Exclusively for this market, Saint Claude EP was released on 14 April, including five songs from Chaleur humaine in English versions. On 16 October, the full album, entitled Christine and the Queens, was released via Because Music. Many tracks were reworked with English lyrics and revamped beats by producer Ash Workman. Two tracks were replaced with three new songs, and two of these new songs were collaborations – "Jonathan" with Perfume Genius, and "No Harm Is Done" with rapper Tunji Ige. These two new collaborations were released as additional singles, the latter on 11 September, and the former on 16 October. On 12 November, Christine appeared on The Daily Show. In 2015 top-ten lists by Time, "Tilted" was included as one of best songs of the year. Pitchfork listed the song in its 2010s best-of, "defining tracks of the decade" list at number 106.
In the United Kingdom, "Tilted" released on 15 January 2016 peaked at number 20 on the UK Singles chart. English version of the album was released there on 26 February, but reverted to its original French title. The album received universal critical acclaim, and was featured on some 2016 year-end lists, ranked 3rd by NME and 8th by The Guardian among others. In May, Christine was added to the BBC Radio 1 main rotation playlist. Her performance at the Glastonbury on 24 June, the day after the Brexit vote, The Guardian called one of the festival's "unequivocal highlights", and later described as "career-launching". Chaleur humaine reached number 2 on the UK Albums chart in July, and was best selling debut album of 2016 there. In September, she put together a cover of Beyoncé's "Sorry" in the BBC Live Lounge, for arrangement and rendition she was included in the "6 Best New Songs of the Week" list by Vulture. The same month, when she was performing at the Camden Roundhouse, Elton John sang with her "Tilted" on stage; he earlier bought her French album and praised her greatly. In November, she performed in London, Manchester, and Glasgow, selling 16.000 seats in a few hours each time. In October, she was chosen as one of BBC's 100 Women. She appeared twice on the Jools' Annual Hootenanny show, on 31 December, and on 1 January 2017.
Her song "iT" was licensed for the closing scenes and crs on the episode "Old Loves" of the Girls series 5th season, which aired on 13 March 2016. And "Tilted" was used in the season 2 finale of Better Things series, its characters recreated the song's video as a graduation gift. This episode aired on 16 November 2017.
For the second studio album, Christine and the Queens had early sessions with both Mark Ronson and Damon Albarn, but eventually decided to work alone, with Cole M.G.N. as co-producer on some tracks. "Confident in her decision to go it alone, she cut her hair short and started again as Chris. “I wanted to risk it all,” [Christine said], smiling." In April 2018, she announced a tour across North America and Europe planned for the autumn. In July, she also announced details of upcoming album titled Chris. It was preceded by release of two singles, each in English and French version: "Girlfriend"/"Damn, dis-moi" on 17 May, and "Doesn't Matter"/"Doesn't Matter (Voleur de soleil)" on 5 July. Later she released also the singles: English-language "5 Dollars" on 16 August, and French-language "La Marcheuse" on 23 August.
Chris was released on 21 September 2018, and received universal critical acclaim. Allmusic ors summarized: "the singer/songwriter's triumphant second album borrows from '80s R&B and questions gender roles, engaging minds, hearts, and bodies along the way." Robert Steiner of The Boston Globe called the album "a refreshing, empowering record", and complimented its "stellar production and contagiously danceable jams", as well as Letissier's "engrossing lyricism". Although he felt that the album "loses steam" in its second half, Steiner named "The Walker" as a highlight for its "poignant" portrayal of a victim of domestic violence. Chris peaked at number 2 on the SNEP, and at #3 on the OCC chart. The record was featured in top of many year-end best-of lists ranked number one by Clash, The Guardian, and The Independent, and placing in top-five of five other lists for a total of 12 positions in top-ten. "Girlfriend" was named by Time song of the year.
In May 2019, Christine performed during the season finale for the eleventh season of RuPaul's Drag Race held at the Orpheum Theatre in Los Angeles. The same month, she headlined All Points East festival in London marking her first UK headline festival appearance. Her performance was very well received, The Independent gave it five stars 5/5.
On 17 July, Charli XCX released the song and video for "Gone" featuring Christine and the Queens. Pitchfork listed the song at number four on its list of 2019's 100 best songs, and at number 145 for the 200 best songs of the 2010s. The track was also shortlisted by BBC Radio 1 DJ Annie Mac for the Hottest Record of The Year, voted for by the public, and finished in third position.
On 27 February 2020, Christine released an EP La Vita Nuova ('The New Life') containing five tracks and one bonus track. Again, she was the sole writer, with Ash Workman as co-producer. The record was met with widespread critical acclaim upon its release. NME 's El Hunt gave a rave review, summarizing; "Conceptually, ‘La Vita Nuova’ is an astonishing feat – but even better than that, it also oozes an intensity of feeling that punches right in the gut." Variety called the EP "arguably [her] best work to date". Its first single, "People, I've Been Sad", was recognized by Time as song of the year. The singer simultaneously released a conceptual short film directed by her longtime collaborator Colin Solal Cardo. It takes place at the famed, historical Paris landmark Opéra Garnier, and features Christine and a group of dancers dancing to the songs from the EP. The video concludes with a guest appearance from featured artist Caroline Polachek.
Christine and the Queens prefers lyrics that are not immediately understandable. She explained that she enjoys "authors with difficult lyrics", such as Alain Bashung. Her music has been labelled by music critics as pop, synthpop, electropop, indie pop, experimental pop, and art pop, while she described her own work as "freakpop".
Letissier emphasized the importance of her experience with Madame Jojo's drag club in London: "These drag artists have become my friends, they've inspired my creativity. They gave me the idea of creating a character, inventing another silhouette, another way of being in this world. Before it was a musical project, Christine was for me the answer to how to live properly. The Queens in Christine and the Queens is my tribute to them. Without the queens, I wouldn't be here".
She also said, "[she] does not want to choose between French music and English pop music" and takes influence from both. In a November 2013 interview with Brain Magazine, she cited artists such as David Bowie, T. Rex, Christophe, Kanye West, Kendrick Lamar and Philip Glass as well as the Soul Train soundtracks as her musical influences. She also named Michael Jackson as her favourite male singer and "either Patti Smith or Kate Bush" as her favourite female singer. Other influences include Mylène Farmer, Björk, Jimmy Jam and Terry Lewis, Janet Jackson, Lou Reed, Joe Jackson, and Serge Gainsbourg.
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The French singer-songwriter was a rare big UK breakthrough act in 2016
J'aime les auteurs de textes rugueux, il faut venir vers le texte. Quand on pense à Alain Bashung, ses textes sont une matière poétique qui se travaille, qui se mâche et qui se réfléchit.
Quelles sont tes influences musicales ? Les BO de Soul Train, Bowie et T-Rex, toute la discographie de Christophe, Kanye West et Kendrick Lamar, du contemporain (Philip Glass)... j'écoute beaucoup sans hiérarchiser. Ton chanteur préféré ? Michael Jackson. Ta chanteuse préférée ? Patti Smith ou Kate Bush.
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