Chris of Christine and the Queens performing in New York in 2015 Steven Pisano/Flickr

Art made from grief is often the most human, and Chris’s latest LP, a 96-minute operatic epic, is no exception. After the shattering loss of his mother, he traces grief, identity and transition through an array of cathartic songs. Chris’s music has always challenged the conventions of gender, sexuality and rhythm; this album is no different, stretching into new domains, resulting in his most experimental offering.

“Searching to fill the emptied soul is a prominent theme of the album”

Gone is the playful funk of his sophomore album in favour of experimental structures that complement the poetry of his lyrics. Every song follows a similar structure to those of its prologue, Redcar les adorables étoiles: one pace, beat and melody carry the lyrics along as if it were created in one take as a spontaneous reaction to an intense feeling, which – as Chris has explained – was the case for Redcar, which was written and recorded in two weeks. It’s clear that he’s spent more time on Paranoia, yet it remains imperfect. Each imperfection, however – a missed note or vocal fry, like in ‘Tears Can Be So Soft’ or ‘Shine’ – provide the album with a sense of human fallibility, a much needed touch for an album that desperately seeks the transcendental.

“The album is at its best where layers of adlibs and electric guitars subtly carve out their own arena”

On this record, as on Redcar, sits an (approximately) ten-minute song. Where Redcar’s ten-minute effort ‘Combien de temps’ had little variation in beat or melody, making it unimaginative and essentially unnecessary, ‘Track 10’ offers a more realised version of a similar vision. It doesn’t quite justify its length, but the crescendo of Chris’s soaring vocals and the sprinting drumline that underpins much of the song give it energy and soul, even if it sometimes feels directionless.

Searching to fill the emptied soul is a prominent theme of the album. The sound palette is largely electronic with the embellishment of strings, piano and guitar. Chris seeks soul inside these artificial, electronic materials, and often succeeds; on tracks like ‘True love’ and ‘A day in the water’, his poetry floats on top of minimalist instrumentation. Madonna’s appearances on the album embody its interest in human connection and the celestial. In spoken word pieces, she provides the voice of an “Eye” – an angel that is made to seem half-human, half-machine through the use of vocal distortion. These pieces don’t make the narrative much clearer, but instead create a deity figure for the album, an artistic embellishment.


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Throughout the record, Chris’s lyricism navigates the recalibration of the soul after grief through loneliness, sensuality, and rebirth, for which the 070 Shake collaborations are notable highlights. ‘Let me touch you once’ feels like a Björk-esque explosion of musical eroticism with Chris rising in and out of falsetto, teasing out lyrics with cries of power and pleasure that are as melodic as they are erotic. The finale, ‘Big eye’, is one of the album’s most accomplished pieces, with a rolling, bass-heavy synth that sits beneath a wall of vocal harmonies covered in reverb, creating an impressive soundscape of breath, melody and life.

Overall, the record lacks narrative coherence, but is abundant in emotional catharsis. Despite being grandiose, the album is at its best where layers of adlibs and electric guitars subtly carve out their own arena, such as in ‘Marvin descending’ or ‘He’s been shining forever, your son’. In short, Chris has created his own amphitheatre to heal and grow both his artistic and personal self. The result is striking, raw, and at its best, ethereal.