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Christine & The Queens | Chris

Héloïse Letissier exhibits her creative genius on her outstanding sophomore release.

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The definition of genius is taking the complex and making it simple. That’s not me talking. That’s Albert Einstein. And he was definitely no dummy. So I’m not going to argue. But ultimately, it doesn’t matter who said it. What matters is that France’s Héloïse Letissier appears to personify it. By Einstein’s definition — or anyone else’s for that matter — Chris, the sophomore album from her musical alter-ego Christine and the Queens, should qualify as a work of creative genius. On the surface, Chris might seem like nothing more than a great pop album. And to be sure, it ticks off all the requisite boxes. It’s chock full of hooky melodies, irresistible grooves, meticulous songcraft and stylish production. Much of the disc takes its musical and sonic cues from classic ’80s pop — especially the colourful works of folks like Cameo, Jimmy Jam & Terry Lewis, Madonna or Michael and Janet Jackson. (Her vocals certainly help in the latter regard.) But here’s the thing: Scratch that surface, you’ll find there’s plenty more going on below. You’ll find aggressively erotic songs set in a landscape of pansexuality and subverted gender roles. (Indeed, the album’s title is apparently a reference to her increasingly confident androgynous persona.) You’ll find painfully heartfelt stories of bullying, depression, religious crisis and domestic violence. And you’ll find music that tackles these topics without sacrificing melodic accessibility or dance-floor appeal. In short, you’ll find an album that simultaneously and effectively targets your head, heart, soul and body in a way pop seldom does. And after she’s done all that in English, she turns does it all again in French on the alternative version (or vice versa, depending on your language of choice). Bottom line: With Chris, Letissier has crafted an album with more levels than a procedurally generated video game and more entry points than a suburban shopping mall. If you don’t think that qualifies as genius, take it up with Einstein.