For the few remaining newcomers to the international treasure Christine And The Queens, it’s honestly difficult to know which of her gems to recommend first. There’s her Later… performance of ‘Tilted’, which ended in a perfectly synchronised tribute to Prince; there’s her semi-Francophonic, half-rapped funk edit of Beyoncé’s ‘Sorry’, which works on just about every level; but there’s also her absolutely legendary 2016 Glastonbury set – and her NME Awards 2017 speech, which ended in the perfect words “Stay freaky!” After her star-making 2016 saw debut album ‘Chaleur Humaine’ sell upwards of a million copies, Héloïse Letissier was on just about every magazine cover going – but over the past year she’s kept a comparably low profile, releasing just a couple of tracks with Mura Masa and Twinsmatic in the meantime.
Now comes ‘Girlfriend’ – on which the French star makes good on her earlier promise of “sweaty, tougher” material. “I’m here again to define what it means to be sexual,” she told NME last year. Letissier’s recent poem for Égoïste magazine, titled ‘Fragments of a Self-Portrait’, suggested much the same; in it, she planned to “steal the time-worn parades of your manhood and turn them into something way more suspicious”, writing: “See how lions move. This is precisely what I crave for. The leader’s liquid gait.”
She needn’t crave it – on ‘Girlfriend’, she’s got it. Her take on funk is fluid in every sense, but it also finds her sounding utterly dominant. “Girlfriend – don’t feel like a girlfriend,” she asserts over a smooth synth line, a fat beat and Prince-ly guitar. “But lover – damn, I’d be your lover.”
“I became obsessed with this idea of the macho man, and still being a woman,” she says of the song. “What does it mean if I’m this figure, and I’m a woman?” Something we’ve never heard before, it turns out. Letissier’s approach to gender and sex hasn’t exactly changed – on 2014’s ‘iT’, her female narrator “draws her own crotch by herself” and declares: “I’ve got iT, I’m a man now“. The difference here is her almost aggressive poise – and the salacious lines like “May your girl come, birdie die under this spur.” Right down to the cover art, it’s a bundle of unapologetic eroticism. “F- f- fuck is you?” she demands, “You don’t even taste much better!”
“My eroticism is precisely what sets me free of… skimpy limits, this gender I’m assigned to,” she wrote in that aforementioned Égoïste essay. “I desired them all, but never with the same sex. (Of course, I’m not going to make it easy on you with lazy definitions. I plan to enrage you, to always escape).” When the result is as fascinating and irresistible as this, long may she continue to elude us.