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Very few French pop stars seem to break into the English music industry singing in their native tongue. Françoise Hardy has recorded albums both in French and English but has only really gained attention out of her homeland through her collaborations with other artists, while Alizée has gained little exposure across the Channel despite the phenomenal success she has enjoyed in her own country. France’s latest export Christine and the Queens, however, has managed to gain considerable recognition in both Britain and America while still retaining her own language, although she also chooses to sing some of her songs in English. The stage name of twenty-eight year old Héloïse Letissier, Christine and the Queens first gained international exposure through her 2014 track Christine and the accompanying debut album Chaleur Humaine. ‘Identity confusion and fluidity — particularly as far as gender is concerned — play a key role in Christine’s songs,’ claimed Spin in last year’s review of the record, ‘but if they’re for anyone in particular, you’d never know from their all-inclusive warmth.’
Following acclaim outside of France, Chaleur humaine was released in the United Kingdom under an eponymous moniker, with the song Christine under the new title Tilted finding its way into the Top Twenty. With the rest of the world now paying attention Letissier may have a lot to live up to her with second album and in a new interview with NME she declares that, ‘I’m going to redefine what it means to be sexy and it’s going to be creepy as hell. Because I could never do the ‘sexy’ way of being sexy.’ Comparing the progression to her sophomore release she explains, ‘The first album was a coming-of-age album – I don’t like the phrase, but when you listen to it you can tell I was having a hard time, that I wasn’t socially relating to people. Since then, things have happened to me, including sexual experiences. I’ve experienced being properly lost in my desires and it’s really influenced my writing. I’m obsessed with the lusting female figure in pop music: I don’t know why George Michael should be able to sing I Want Your Sex and I can’t, because I do. I want their sex as well, you know?’
Despite the somewhat calming ambient melodies of her synthpop tunes, Letissier has a very outspoken attitude when it comes to discussing her political opinions, sexuality and general outlook on life. ‘I don’t like to talk about it because it becomes immediately what I don’t like being – drama-queeny – but suicide for me is a real question all the time,’ she confessed to the Guardian in September. ‘I’m interested in this concept of choosing at some point to end things. I was really considering suicide for real. I’m way too much of a coward to do it, even if I wanted to. But it was purely unbearable and I had nothing to sustain me, so Christine was me having a new writing technique and so then a new way to be.’Letissier is another in a long tradition of musicians who have adopted a stage persona in order to express themselves more freely. Whether it be Marilyn Manson or Lady Gaga, many artists create an alter-ego in which they can indulge in their fantasies and pain under the safety blanket of a pseudonym. It can also assist when a singer is shy and withdrawn, allowing to be someone else while onstage. Yet through her songs and interviews Letissier has been open about her approach to her sexuality. ‘My parents are very curious, tolerant people and they know me better than I know myself,’ she told the New Statesman earlier this year. ‘I never got to do my coming out, for instance. My father bought me books by Judith Butler when I was a teenager. My mum understood before I did that I was in love with a girl, because I was blushing so hard when I was talking about her. She said, ‘You’re blushing!’ I was seventeen. I wonder why I have issues with self-love, because I grew up in an environment where it was okay to be myself. But you can internalise society a lot more than you know.’