Lead Album Review
Lead Album Review
“Queer is taking the shame and anger and taking it as a fuel for it to be something else,” singer-songwriter says ahead of U.S. tour
“Everything is wonderful,” says Christine and the Queens’ Héloïse Letissier, “but at the same time it’s been intense.” The French singer has just returned from a week of shows, TV appearances (including a talked-up cover of Beyoncé’s “Sorry” on the BBC) and festivals in London, after a whirlwind year that’s seen her duet live onstage with both Elton John and Madonna, the latter of whom even administered a ceremonial spanking to this eccentric, exhilarating pop star in the making.
On the verge of her first major American headlining tour – which kicks off tonight in Chicago – Letissier invites Rolling Stone to her quiet, airy house in Paris to talk about the events that transformed her, irrevocably, into her current alter ego. She’s a bona fide sensation in Europe (the Belgian gold disc of her 2014 debut album, Chaleur Humaine, hangs in the bathroom), and her path to success has already become something of a rock & roll fairy tale – replete with a clutch of kindly British drag queens taking a downcast Letissier into their London home and helping her find her real identity as Christine.
“Christine is just me choosing everything,” says the queer artist, and her genuine delight in her art is what makes Christine so magnetic as a performer. Leading a troupe of identically dressed male dancers onstage, she mixes up Michael Jackson–style dance moves with expressive vogue-ing flourishes, singing lines like, “I’m doing my face with a magic marker/I’m in my right place, don’t be a downer” (“Tilted”). There is, simply, no one quite like her in contemporary pop.
In person, Letissier’s English is not only impeccable, it’s also elegant: She describes Chaleur Humaine as being melancholy “and at the same time luminous.” She is warm and funny; reflecting on her early gigs, she shrugs, “In some cities, I was just this girl singing onstage about having a dick.” She is horrified by Donald Trump’s political success, pulls silly faces often and has a love of awkwardness: “No one is normal,” she tells RS, “but some people are made to feel that they are not.” It’s this phenomenon that she seeks to address via the mighty vehicle of pristine, heartfelt pop.
Letissier spoke to Rolling Stone about the otherworldly appeal of Michael Jackson, why she’s afraid of a Trump victory and what queerness means to her.
Lead live review
MOJO Magazine, lead live review
Strings of Life
A fearless innovator takes her songs of experience Down Under
MOJO Magazine feature
Raised by Christian missionaries, schooled in Downtown New York Jazz, immersed in black American Music, Matthew E. White makes rich, deep modern soul albums infused with passion and a confessional honesty. Sophie Harris visited his Richmond home and studio to meet the big man himself.
Buy this issue of MOJO magazine at mojo4music.com/magazine.
From ‘Waiting to Exhale’ to the Weeknd: Babyface on 20 Years of R&B
Veteran songwriter also talks Barbra, Whitney, Puffy and why women are more interested in love than men
On the one hand, it’s impossible to imagine what it would be like to live Babyface’s life. Kenny Edmonds is, after all, the songwriter-producer who defined Nineties R&B; besides scoring his own mega-selling solo albums, Edmonds crafted hits for Boyz II Men, TLC and Bobby Brown that would become ingrained in the minds of anyone old enough to own a Discman.
Babyface has worked with pop royalty, from Michael Jackson to Barbra Streisand, Whitney Houston to Carole King. In 1994, Madonna told Rolling Stone that his songs were like Rolls-Royces: “The design is classic,” she said, “the ride is smooth, and they’re built to last.”
And Babyface, originally nicknamed by Bootsy Collins, remains relevant. He kicked off this year duetting with Ariana Grande at a Grammy tribute to Stevie Wonder — he produced the star’s 2013 debut, Yours Truly — and was credited by Nathan Sykes as having helped the ex-Wanted heartthrob write the most emotional song he’s ever written.
But on the other hand, it is possible to imagine the Babyface lifestyle, because Edmonds is so humble in person. “You don’t walk around saying, ‘I’m a Grammy winner,'” he shrugs. (For the record, Babyface has won 11 Grammys.) “It’s just one of those things where you appreciate [success] as it happens, and then you get back to work.”
Edmonds has a lot to be pleased about right now. He’s about to receive the Soul Train Legend award; his new solo album, Return of the Tender Lover, is out December 4th; and December also marks the 20th anniversary of Waiting to Exhale, a film that’s best remembered for its multi-platinum Babyface-produced soundtrack.
Here, the veteran artist reveals his thoughts on current R&B stars like the Weeknd and Sam Smith, recalls working Whitney Houston on the Exhale soundtrack and tells us why women are more interested in love than men.
Read the full interview at Rolling Stone.
Time Out New York, interview feature
Listen up! The adored, fast-rising Australian singer Courtney Barnett is about to storm New York in a big way.
MOJO Magazine, lead live review
Brooklyn bard finds joyful relief in playing grief-stricken new songs to a home crowd.