Christine and the Queens' 'Redcar et les adorables étoiles (prologue)' Is Pure Id

BY Emilie HanskampPublished Nov 8, 2022

We throw around the word "reinvention" a lot. An artist changes a hairstyle, takes the jump from rock to rap, or drops a syllable from their stage name, and fans are expected to believe that their transformation is holistic and total; they're born anew. Often, that change is superficial, and they revert to their safest and most commercially viable selves by the next album cycle. French synth-pop artist Christine and the Queens is an exception.

Where pop meets experimentation, Chris takes a Bowie-esque approach to reinvention, daring fans to come along for the ride. On his third studio album (and his first under the suave alias RedcarRedcar les adorables étoiles (prologue), the artist has flipped the script again. Overtop a lush '80s-infused palette of creeping synths, drum machines and panoramic soundscapes, he delivers a complex and occasionally challenging project that deconstructs both identity and pop music as a whole.

Selfhood has never been static for Chris. He's shown this through appearance — a hair chop, a name change, suits conceived to deflect the male gaze. But the biggest shifts have been in perspective. His primary alias, Christine and the Queens, was at the fore of his own awakening and liberation — toggling between boldness and social anxiety. Then came Chris, a name the artist still holds onto — the insatiable, crude and horny id. 

Now as we enter the Redcar era, we meet a character even more complex, contradictory and layered. He is yearning, gallant and hopeful. His mission statement could be a modern pop take on Romanticism — I feel, and love, therefore I am. This comes through on songs like "Combien de temps" ("How much time"), where he sings "I have a heart as big as my conscience […] I need to love as I need to breathe". While the line between artifice and authenticity can be a fine one in pop, Redcar uses artifice and persona as a vehicle for vulnerability.  On his third album, we see a new level of tenderness towards both himself and those around him.
What's striking about Redcar is the way he infuses empowerment into emotions and experiences that could easily feel otherwise. On "la clairefontaine", loosely translated as "clear fountain" (he will surely find a better way of translating that for the English release), he doesn't ask but demands someone to "Tell me that you love me […] Swear that you love me". Even through longing and bids for connection and existential meanderings, strength and agency take the place of desperation and insecurity. 

And of course, there's the sex "about which you think all the time" ("Combien de temps"). One of the most exciting through-lines of the French artist's work has been the way he embodies sexuality and seduction. On the R&B track "My Birdman," Redcar's falsetto croons overtop a Sade-like, come-hither groove as he makes a lover wait until he is ready to "give it all". That slow-building anticipation is more of an impatient desire on songs like "Tu sais ce qu'il me faut" ("You Know What I Need"). Over electrifying gated ambience and trap sirens, his lust borders on obsession as he observes a person's every move. At this point, he has built his own genre of pop eroticism.

While there is Redcar "la séductrice", there is also Redcar the pop star-cum-philosopher. It's hard to think of another current pop star who would release a synth-heavy track about an existential conversation with the cosmos ("Les étoiles"). Redcar, and the French artist behind the moniker, is complex in the way that we all are. Sometimes we're wistful ("Ma bien aimée bye bye") and sometimes we're tortured by life's big questions. Sometimes we're lustful ("Tu sais ce qu'il me faut") and other times we just want someone to hold us and tell us they'll love us forever. Redcar allows for these contradictions in identity throughout the album.

But just as Redcar deconstructs identity and persona, he also deconstructs the pop format as a whole. The eight and a half minute "Combien de temps" is almost like a sermon-to-self. The artist muses on life, love and the world around him overtop a consistent funk-pop groove with no discernible bridge, chorus or break. The intrigue is there, but you crave a dynamism that never quite arrives. "Angelus" similarly feels like an inhale with no exhale. This album has been labeled a prologue, so that could add context to the fact that there are some moments that feel like the beginning of a (potentially very exciting) sentence, waiting to be punctuated.

Where Redcar triumphs is on moments like the high-stamina bilingual track "Looking for Love." Self-acceptance, desire and optimism come together in a euphoric, kick drum-infused celebration that climaxes in a proclamation that "My emotions are real! / My feelings are real!" It could be 2022's call and response to "I Wanna Dance with Somebody". A similar high can be found on "Je te vois enfin" and "Tu sais ce qu'il me faut," where he channels a Madonna-like dominance. Similarly, "rien dire" is a stripped down ode-to-pop ballad that already feels timeless. While the French artist has introduced a new persona and perspective on Redcar les adorables étoiles (prologue), his ability to produce truly unique moments of pop power remains.
(Because Music )

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