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Redcar les adorables étoiles is a sonic expression of unhappiness from Christine and the Queens

"Redcar les adorables étoiles"

Release date: 11 November 2022
Christine and the Queens Redcar - les adorables etoiles cover
11 November 2022, 00:00 Written by Amaya Lim

Héloïse Adélaïde Letissier is an artist’s artist, a master of conceptual and personal reinvention.

Known professionally as Christine and the Queens, Chris, and now Redcar, Letissier has been respected as a brilliant creative mind – singer-songwriter, choreographer, dancer – since the explosive release of his debut album Chaleur Humaine (2014), written and produced almost entirely alone.

2018 followup Chris was met with similar critical reception. Again mostly a solo project, Chris saw the artist take on a new persona entirely, but maintain the singular artistic vision that served as a consistent animating force in his body of work. Critics hailed pandemic release La vita nuova (2020) as perhaps Letissier’s most impressive record, conceptually and musically surpassing his existing artistic prowess and further developing themes introduced in earlier albums.

Where his previous albums are clean, buoyant, and strikingly visionary, Redcar les adorables étoiles (2022) is disjointed and abstract, further muddled by the obfuscation of its central character, Redcar. The complexity of the persona is almost certainly intentional, a reflection of Letissier’s personal relationship to gender; he came out as a trans man earlier this year after what he described in an interview as a “tumultuous” journey. Letissier’s work has always lyrically explored gender as a thematic concept – “iT” on Chaleur Humaine states plainly, “‘Cause I’ve got it / I’m a man now” – but it was unclear up to this point how the artistic and personal ruminations did and did not coincide. Redcar’s refusal of the gender binary is his most explicable characteristic – his appearances on social media as the meta-personas of doorman, dominatrix, and jockey are seemingly unrelated to the lyrical content of the album.

Notably absent from Redcar les adorables étoiles is the sense of exquisite, crystalline vision present in Letissier’s prior work. Perhaps this lack is only a function of the production style, featuring reverb-soaked vocals, rambling melodies, and spacey synthesizers. Single “rien dire” recalls the intentionality of songs like “People, I’ve been sad” and “The walker,” but falls short, hindered by its lack of sonic propulsion. The crisp eighties drums characteristic of earlier albums are present, but buried underneath many layers of cloudy instrumentation and harmony. Songs like “combien de temps” and “les etoiles” center around interesting lyrical and melodic ideas, but are hampered by the messy vocal performance from a singer typically dynamic, expressive, and precise in his delivery.

If Redcar les adorables étoiles is a conceptual portrait of an artist in a period of personal turmoil, perhaps it achieves its goal. The sonic expression of unhappiness is certainly present on the album, and speaks to the ways that pain can impede artistic vision. Hopefully the promised sequel to Redcar sees Letissier emerge on the other side of this record with more intentionality and conceptual development.

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