Christine and the Queens

Chaleur Humaine

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It took a while to introduce Christine and the Queens' self-described "freakpop" to the world. The group's debut album first arrived in 2014 as Chaleur Humaine in frontwoman Héloïse Létissier's native France, then it was issued in the United States in 2015 as Christine and the Queens, and finally as a deluxe U.K. edition of Chaleur Humaine in early 2016. The acclaim for the album -- whatever its title -- only grew with each release, and rightfully so: on Chaleur Humaine, Christine and the Queens don't just embrace differences, they see them as beautiful. Within the album's lovely synth pop, there's strangeness and strength; "I'm doing my face with magic marker," Létissier sings on "Christine," a subtly irresistible track with the power of an anthem in the making. A similar independence pulses through the gorgeous "Saint Claude," which depicts the moment of walking away or committing entirely with heart-stopping beauty. As Chaleur Humaine unfolds, Christine reveals herself as less of a disguise and more of a prism for Létissier's distinctive outlook. She addresses her pansexuality throughout the album, subtly on songs like the aforementioned "Christine" and more directly on "Half Ladies" and "iT," a call-and-response track with the Queens where her backing band sings "She's a man now/And there's nothing we can do." This fluidity extends to the ease with which Létissier blends French traditions with contemporary pop, hip-hop, and R&B. She mixes all of the above on "Paradis Perdus," an interpolation of Kanye West's "Heartless" and Christophe's 1973 hit "Les Paradis Perdus," transforming them into something with its own emotive power. Elsewhere, the band balances the urgency of songs such as "Safe and Holy" and gentler moments like "Nuit 17 à 52" with a grace reflecting Létissier's former life as a dancer. Indeed, Christine and the Queens' emotional and musical agility only makes Chaleur Humaine's heartfelt, thoughtful pop that much richer and rewarding.

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