2. Christine and the Queens, Chris (Because)
Back in 2015, I was at the Osheaga fest in Montreal and went to check out a new artist called Christine and the Queens on one of the side stages. Because she was French and had achieved some trans-Atlantic success in Quebec, she drew a sizable crowd, and her performance was a lot more charming than I expected. It was high-energy, complete with choreography, but it was completely lacking pretentiousness. I enjoyed her smooth take on electronic R&B well enough, but in no way did that prepare me for what this incredibly talented artist named Heloïse Letissier had in store for 2018. Whereas Letissier looked decidedly feminine in 2015, albeit in a tomboyish way, she re-emerged in 2018 with a leaner, more muscular physique, not to mention a cropped hairstyle that accentuated her truly androgynous appeal. A self-professed pansexual, Letissier’s sexuality takes front and centre on the revelatory and groundbreaking album Chris, in which she bares all, from lust to remorse to heartbreak to joy. Musically Chris is hugely inspired by such ’80s sounds as Michael Jackson, classic Janet Jackson, and New Jack, and wow, do you ever hear it on the opening track “Comme si”, in which you can envision her authoritative dancing as you hear the track. “Girlfriend”, “The Walker”, “5 Dollars”, “Goya Soda”, “Damn (what must a woman do)” are so incredible in their ’80s homages that if this came out 30 yerars ago, it would have been a global smach. As it stands, Chris is an all-out triumph, in French or English. In fact, I was apprehensive of the accompanying English CD for this album, but I was pleasantly surprised to find that Letissier is a remarkably talented English lyricist, and her unorthodox use of English cadences makes for some really powerful lines, something you’d never hear from an anglophone singer. In an era where the lines between masculinity and femininity have become more blurred than ever – heck, I even discovered that while I am a hetero male I am not a cis-hetero male, not by a long shot – this masterpiece of an album is an impassioned and ultimately transcendent celebration of the fluidity of gender. After all, a rainbow is far more interesting than mere black and white.