The French singer-songwriter’s mammoth fourth album tackles grief, love and spirituality across 20 tracks
We last heard from Héloïse Letissier a matter of months ago, when he introduced us to Redcar, the star of November 2022’s Redcar Les Adorables Étoiles. Redcar was suave, dapper, changeable, somewhat magical. He brought with him a swagger and a confidence to the album, let us chase him as he escaped into his own mind. Now, on Paranoïa, Angels, True Love, Chris shows us what he was running from.
If Paranoïa was a book, it could be used as a weapon. And that’s not any kind of comment on the sharpness of the writing – if anything, Chris has aimed for something dreamy, dazed and hard to comprehend – but purely on the size of the thing. The album is twenty tracks in length, the longest of which clocks in at over 11 minutes. Redcar weaves a very deliberate tapestry in its 13 tracks, but Paranoïa is everything; all the pain and the self-doubt and the cycles of acceptance and denial that Chris experienced in the wake of his mother’s death. There are other explanations hinted at for his fragmentation – a romantic loss, struggles with identity – but it’s his mother that we find all over the record, as Chris journeys through its three sections.
The album is presented to us in a three-act structure, not so neatly organised by theme as its title would suggest, but still more or less telling some chronological story of grief, spiritual yearning and healing. Early offering ‘Tears Can Be So Soft’ lays out the crux of the matter: “I miss my mum, I miss my mum,” sings Chris. Mourning is healing, the track suggests, and so we follow Chris on a tumultuous search for meaning. On Redcar, we are led, but there is no one at the helm of Paranoïa other than the feeling.
And perhaps also Madonna. The global superstar makes an unexpected appearance as the “One Big Eye”, a voice that appears scattered throughout the record, representative sometimes of an angel, of tech, of God, of Chris’ mother. To sign up for a spot of voice acting on a Christine and the Queens album is a brave thing – Chris’ voice is a ridiculously versatile instrument – but Madonna’s Big Eye does Chris’ poetry wonderful justice.
It’s an incredibly dense work. Long enough and complex enough to be frequently self-referential, it builds on much of the sound introduced in Redcar – dark disco, gloomy 80s pop, sparkling synths and retrofuturism – and expands out the otherworld we caught a glimpse of, turning it into a bridge between the physical and metaphysical. Chris speculates on the form of an angel, lets a spiritual longing bleed into physical desire, falls in love and accepts heartbreak, speaks directly to some form of A.I. God, and misses his mum. When you lay it all out, to do it in 20 tracks seems almost restrained.