Christine and the Queens' debut album, Chaleur Humaine, announced her as a heartfelt, eloquent artist and earned her a thriving following of listeners who felt she was singing directly to -- and for -- them. Its stories of coming of age as a queer woman, such as the hit singles "St. Claude" and "Tilted," had an almost liquid tenderness that brought her identity softly into focus. Chaleur Humaine's success was literally transformative: the demands of touring made Christine stronger inside and out, and Chris reflects that, reinventing her identity and sound from its androgynous one-syllable title to its honed songwriting. Using boundary-breaking role models like Madonna and Sigourney Weaver as inspiration, Christine's second album expands her conception of what it means to be a woman by borrowing the good stuff -- autonomy, lust -- that too often is the exclusive domain of male artists. She's the pursuer on "Goya Soda"'s tale of erotic chasing and consuming, and unafraid to show her impatience with male and female lovers alike on "Damn (What Must a Woman Do)." Thanks to the vintage new jack samples she used to create the album, Chris sounds as strong and sharp-edged as Christine's viewpoint. The headstrong, dramatic sounds of late-'80s and early-'90s R&B feel both familiar and foreign, and provide an inspired backdrop for Christine's subversion of traditional gender roles. She sounds tough, seductive, and even a little playful on the Dâm-Funk collaboration "Girlfriend," where she refuses the passive territory of the song's title with one breath and delivers a sexy counteroffer ("damn, I'd be your lover") with the next. In much the same way she previously borrowed from Kanye and covered Beyoncé, on Chris she channels Michael and Janet Jackson with electrifying results. The bright, tight opener, "Comme Si," evokes the way the King of Pop generated excitement back in the day, its shimmying and popping percussion suggesting the choreography that was so integral to his music (and is to Christine's). Later, her taut, vibrato-laden vocals on "Feel So Good" echo both Michael and Janet's styles over sliding synths and samples of breaking glass. Crucially, Chris' purposeful sound doesn't come at the cost of Christine's vulnerability -- in fact, her newfound strength lets her dig deeper and reveal more. On "Whats-Her-Face," she brilliantly captures how teenage bullying can still feel like it happened yesterday. "The Walker" is an unbowed ballad that compares bruises to violets and wears them like badges of honor, while "Doesn't Matter" is a crisis of faith that's impossible not to dance to; even though she questions everything, Christine urges her listeners to find a ray of hope and run with it. As she examines what masculinity, femininity, strength, and vulnerability mean to her, Christine has never sounded more exposed -- or in control. A triumph, Chris reaffirms just how masterfully she engages minds, hearts, and bodies.
AllMusic Review by Heather Phares