Christine and the Queens: “To Be Honest”

At a recent show at London’s Southbank Centre, Christine and the Queens, going under the guise of Redcar, performed the entirety of his latest album Redcar les adorables étoiles (prologue). Dressed as a sailor, he donned a red strap-on, screamed existential questions to a papier-mâché moon, and danced with a giant robot arm. The show was ostensibly about some kind of salvation—ending with Letissier ascending to heaven—but the album he was performing felt strangely leaden. Where were the dazzling, hook-rich songs Chris had become known for? Where was the warm emotion of La vita nuova, or Chris’s sleazy razzle-dazzle? 

As its title suggested, Redcar les adorables étoiles was just act one: The second part, Paranoïa, Angels, True Love, is slated to be released in June. And praise be—its lead single “To Be Honest” is dazzlingly grand, an understated but electrifying return to form. Over slowly-building synth chords, Chris sings in English about feeling estranged from his own past—“I’ve been through so much/That sometimes it feels far/It is like a movie played by another star/She’s a stranger, to be honest”—indirectly referencing the trauma and upheaval he has experienced since his transition and the death of his mother. A motorik drum beat and the faintest electric guitar solo give the song the feeling of a resplendent ‘80s power ballad; Chris sounds as if he recorded in the center of a cathedral, his voice reverberating skyward as the song builds. “Feeling kind of loveless/Yet always ready to try,” he sings, finally landing on something akin to hope.