"Hagoromo" at Brooklyn Academy of Music
"You Us We All" at the Brooklyn Academy of Music

Christine and the Queens at Webster Hall

by Steven Pisano

  Christine and the Queens
(All photographs by Steven Pisano.)

To an English-speaking audience, the name Héloïse Letissier (le-TISS-ee-ay) was probably destined to drop to the bottom of the sea. But, reimagined as the semi-alliterative Christine and the Queens, Ms. Letissier has surfed across the Atlantic on a perfect wave of media hugs and kisses from Spin, The New Yorker, Pitchfork, and others, who have heralded not only her brightly appealing dance pop, but also her gender-bending persona, often dressing in men’s-style suits.

Touring this fall in support of Marina and the Diamonds, Christine and the Queens headlined the Grand Ballroom at Webster Hall on November 11, playing to a sold out audience including a sizable French-speaking contingent. Technically speaking, Christine and the Queens is not a group, but a solo project. But Ms. Letissier tours with others—in this case, two dancers, a guitarist, and a guy on keyboards and electronics. She likes to run back and forth on the stage, moving in a manner that reminds some people of Madonna-style vogueing.

Ms. Letissier is an extremely beguiling performer. She's a bit goofy, a bit romantic, screams, whimpers, and throws herself headlong into every song. In her own words, she is your weird cousin who sits at the end of the table during dinner, playing with her fork. Her English is flawless, which should help her bypass the resistance some Americans have toward Continental Europeans.


While her songs are dressed up as danceable pop, with strong beats and shimmering synth surfaces, the lyrics often lean more toward street folk. (“Tilted” is about a girl who draws on her face with magic marker.) Letissier would make a fine chanteuse if dancing wasn’t such a strong element of her act.

On “It,” the lead song on her recent self-titled album (which is, in fact, an English update of her 2014 debut Chaleur Humaine), Letissier sings slyly about obtaining a penis - if not literally, then metaphorically. Having described herself earlier this year as "pansexual", she so sounds relaxed when discussing gender role and sexual preference, it is hard to understand why people still mark such hard lines in the sand.


There is every reason to think that Christine and the Queens should become as popular an act in English-speaking countries as in France, where Ms. Letissier was voted Artist of the Year and her album reached #2 on the charts. Her only current liability seems to be her short backlist: at Webster Hall, she sang nearly every song she's recorded so that during her encore, she had to admit, with a hopeful wink, that she'd need to go back home and write more songs. From the roar of approval she heard in response, it was clear that her audience would be waiting.

20151111-DSC_9833-2You can view additional concert footage of Christine and the Queens here. More photos available here.