Christine and the Queens goes by many names: Héloïse Letissier (the birth name he still uses occasionally), Chris (the masculine figure of his 2018 album by the same name) and now Redcar. It’s a new persona inspired by multiple sightings of red cars driving past his home during isolation in 2020, which he took as a sign from above in the wake of his mother’s recent death.
On his third studio album Redcar Les Adorables Étoiles, which translates to “Redcar the Adorable Stars,” the French pop artist reintroduces himself to the world through a cryptic exploration of identity, love and grief. Redcar takes on a queer, otherworldy aura almost like David Bowie’s alien alter ego Ziggy Stardust. It’s a bold choice suitable for an intense musical project rife with imagery of sailors, knights and angels.
The 13 tracks, written in a frenzied two-week period and muddled by disagreements with the record label, is intended as a prelude to another release set for next year. There are no songs with the same instant pop appeal as 2014’s “Tilted” or 2018’s “Girlfriend.” Instead, the record is a fragmented conceptual journey that lusts and longs for love, though it sometimes loses direction.
The odyssey opens with “Ma Bien Aimée Bye Bye,” mixing sultry, wistful lyrics with an ’80s boogie beat that promises greatness. Redcar bids farewell to his lover, “my wife ‘til I die,” but he doesn’t find clear musical footing again until they reconcile in penultimate track “Je Te Vois Enfin.” It’s a booming synth anthem that finds hope in nature. “Mon amour rime avec toujours, toujours,” he croons — my love rhymes with always, always.
In the meantime, though, Redcar is lost in a haze of misery and soul-searching. On “Tu Sais Ce Qu’il Me Faut,” Redcar lusts after a mysterious new man, and on “Les Étoiles,” he talks directly to his mother and prays to the stars for direction. Echoey, multi-tracked falsetto creates an ambiance that is ethereal and vaporous. He sings of “ardent kisses, arms raised as in the sky” on the poetic “Memoire des Ailes.” “I wish you would choose my sweet face forever. Everything seems like a sign to me,” Redcar yearns.
The nearly 10-minute-long “Combien de Temps” is profoundly operatic, but it sometimes digresses to the point of near unintelligibility. Some of the lyrics may be lost in translation, from the ambiguous definition of the verb “aimer,” which means both “to love” and “to like,” to the double entendre of “lécher à la coque,” which refers to both waves licking the hull of a boat and lips licking, well, a cock. The cheeky wordplay is reminiscent of the provocative ’60s pop star Serge Gainsbourg, who frequently shocked the French public with sordid, sexual turns of phrase.
Redcar Les Adorables Étoiles is not willfully obscure, but some ideas don’t seem fully fleshed out yet. Many songs have no discernible verses or chorus, and they often end abruptly, like an unfinished thought. The lyrics are fervent and symbolic, but it can be difficult to parse when Redcar is singing about himself and when he is singing about a lover.
Christine and the Queens is a character that remains shrouded in mystery. This album is just the beginning of his journey as Redcar, and it seems that he is still figuring out his new identity at the same time as his listeners.“It’s my choice to live in this strange, beautiful poetry, and Redcar is emblematic of that choice,” he explained mysteriously in an interview with Vogue, offering up more questions than answers.
The album makes the most sense when viewed as a prologue — perhaps the missing pieces will fall into place when paired with his forthcoming record set to be released next year. Chris has always rejected commercialization of his queer identity, so this project could be interpreted as an effort to break away from stereotypes and make music on his own terms.