Christine And The Queens is Héloïse Letissier, a French songwriter who earned the title of female artist of the year in her home country. She’s releasing her debut self-titled album next week, a record that includes features from several American artists with wildly disparate styles, including a couple favorites around here: 19-year-old Pennsylvania rapper Tunji Ige and Mike Hadreas aka gender-challenging and falsetto-blessed balladeer Perfume Genius. The latter guests “Jonathan,” which premiered at Pitchfork today. It’s a resilient, elegant track that ebbs and flows from pain and weakness into a strong, unflinching vulnerability. Letissier and Hadreas weave their vocal parts together and alone across the mesmerizing, wispy beats, capturing their own feelings but leaving enough space for the listener to insert their own as well.
Letissier shared an extensive statement about the song’s background and her respect for Hadreas as an artist that is simply beautiful and well-worth reading:
I grew up with a poster of Klaus Nomi on my wall. The big, sad eyes piercing through his chalky face seemed to testify that somehow, a man was underneath it all — and the very idea that the creature was adored while the man ended up alone never ceased to puzzle me. His disease was then something that made you lower your voice.
And shame is something queer culture still fights today, with new words, new ways of existing.
Klaus Nomi chose to be supernatural, Perfume Genius chose to stare right back at you, smoking a cigarette with his nails polished, and as for me, I tried my best to make all my wounds pop. It’s all about being loud and fierce — shame is nothing but an insidious negation: you shrink, you whisper, you hide.
I wrote “Jonathan” because my lover would ignore my existence outside of the closed, silent room I lived in; it became then imperious for me to sing, just to make sure I was still here. From the start, the song had two voices; one in English, one in French — longing for an answer I knew I would never get. So it was there, on my computer, crepuscular, like my own little Mrs. Butterfly’s swan song.
And then, I got lucky enough to ask Perfume Genius if he would like to sing with me. He cannot be ignored, because his voice melts every stone, because he doesn’t hide; without him, the song felt like dying, but now, it’s more like the promise of something healing through the pain. This is what I learnt with artists like Klaus Nomi, and still love with ones like Perfume Genius: you’re never as strong as when you allow yourself to be the most vulnerable person you can be.
That last line is one of the most powerful things I’ve read all week, and it rings true. Listen below.
Here’s the fall tour dates for Christine And The Queens:
10/19 Los Angeles, CA @ Greek Theatre
10/20 Oakland, CA @ Fox Theater
10/21 Oakland, CA @ Fox Theater
10/23 Portland, OR @ Roseland
10/24 Vancouver, BC @ Commodore
10/25 Seattle, WA @ Paramount
10/27 Salt Lake City, UT @ The Complex
10/28 Denver, CO @ Ogden
10/30 Minneapolis, MN @ Northop
10/31 Chicago, IL @ Riviera Theatre
11/02 Toronto, ONT @ Sound Academy
11/03 Montreal, QC – Metropolis
11/04 Boston, MA @ House of Blues
11/09 New York, NY @ Terminal 5
11/10 New York, NY @ Terminal 5
11/11 New York, NY @ Webster Hall
Christine And The Queens is out 10/16 via Neon Gold/Because Music. Pre-order it here.