Christine and the Friday Five

I’m such a Johnny-come-lately. Story of my life, really. I’m forever falling in love with bands who are no longer together or putting out music, or artists who have been active for a while and now have a large enough fanbase to make those smaller, more intimate concerts out of the question.

Many years ago, I listened to the album “Cloak and Cipher” by Land of Talk and was instantly transfixed, but then discovered that they’d stopped making music and were on some sort of unconfirmed indefinite hiatus. I was devastated. Thankfully they started making music again, and I was able to see them in Brooklyn this past spring, so all is well in the Land of Talk realm.

But I wasn’t so lucky with Wild Flag. Oh, Wild Flag. My biggest music regret is that I didn’t discover you until it was too late. By the time that single record release hooked its way into my heart, the dust had already settled on the band, and from what I hear, there is no possibility of a reunion. Not by a long shot. I console myself by purchasing every Wild Flag item I can get my grubby little hands on, whether it’s vinyl or buttons or posters or whatever. I have a ton of Wild Flag gig posters, though I never had the privilege of seeing them perform live. [Insert heavy sigh here.]

Over the past year, I’ve tried to immerse myself in all things music so that I don’t miss out again. I cruise around Bandcamp listening to anything and everything, trying on bands and artists like an armload of discounted clothes at Kohl’s. I’ve found some truly amazing artists this way. And I’m following all the necessary music news sources like Pitchfork, CoS, and a million others. I’ll admit that I don’t always check everything out that they recommend, but I do my best to give featured tracks and artists a listen. Of course, by the time they get to Pitchfork, chances are they’ve been around for a bit, or people have been following their careers for some time, even if they aren’t a household name. And it drives me kinda nuts when I’ve already missed out on all the cool limited edition vinyl releases, or tiny shows at basement clubs in New York. Those handmade Eskimeaux cassettes? Augh, I’m so bummed that I have to wait until one shows up on my preferred vinyl marketplace and then fight with other rabid fans to be the first to pay the outrageous mark-up fee. And that applies to so many artists for me.

And now that’s me with Christine and the Queens. Not that I can’t purchase a lot of the vinyl and such fairly easily, but I’m just here, scratching my head, wondering how I hadn’t heard of Heloise Letissier before a clip surfaced in my Twitter feed of her performance on Jimmy Fallon. I was captivated. Who was this dimpled, pint-sized firecracker of androgyny with mega Michael Jackson moves and a killer voice? She wasn’t simply a singer with backup dancers. There was something so different and refreshing and compelling about her routine. So of course I pulled up a Rolling Stone article on Heloise and her stage persona of Christine and the Queens, and I read about her struggles, her search for identity that challenged preconceived notions of gender and sexuality, the story behind her stage name and the events that led up to it. I loved the way she looked at the world, and what she was trying to achieve with this music, this persona. She’s awkward, she’s different, she’s outspoken, she’s tilted. And it’s not like she’s the first artist to come along and bring that energy, but somehow this resonates with me far more than other efforts. She’s David Bowie and Michael Jackson and Price rolled into one. She’s Hedwig. And Hedwig, for me, was transcendental. Transformative. When I first heard John Cameron Mitchell and Stephen Trask’s brilliant story and music for “Hedwig and the Angry Inch,” I felt like everything just clicked. To paraphrase a quote from a favorite movie (“Little Children”), it was as if I had been listening to a radio, and someone turned the dial just a hair and everything suddenly came through crystal clear. The static of life as a bit of an outsider, as someone tilted, faded a little, even if just for the time when the music was in my ears. That’s what music should do, right? It should transport you. It should elevate you. It should draw emotions and ideas out of you that you didn’t know existed.

The static was gone last Friday as I watched YouTube video after YouTube video. I was so impressed by the entire package of Christine and the Queens — the singing, the dancing, the OUTFITS, the expression and individuality. And once again, I felt something click. I felt uplifted. And I haven’t stopped listening all week, despite my crushing disappointment that I was such a Johnny-come-lately to Christine, I discovered her two days after she performed in Boston (the one shot I would have had at seeing her live). Curses. And I’m also still perplexed that I hadn’t heard of her before last week when she’s been so popular in France for years. And I like music out of France.

But it’s okay. I’ve got her in my wheelhouse now, and that’s what matters. Until I can procure all the Christine and the Queens vinyl, I’ll make do with the YouTube videos. Which leads me to the Friday Five portion of this post…

It’s all Christine and the Queens. Listen to it. Love it.

1.  “Tilted”

This song has gone through a few iterations. First it was “Cripple,” I think. And then “Christine” for the French release. And then it was rewritten again as “Tilted” for us non-French-speaking folk. I dare you not to dance.

2.  “Saint Claude”

She’s Michael Jackson. Seriously. I love the way they twist and stretch her body in this video, too. But those moves, man.

3.  “Jonathan” feat. Perfume Genius

This song. This video. After watching it twice, I proclaimed that I wanted it to be played at my funeral, and I was only half joking. I mean, come on. What a perfect marriage.

4.  “Half Ladies” (live in Boston)

So, the sound quality is pretty shaky, but the energy in this performance is unreal. Those moves!! I want to learn that dance. I want to dance it in my living room every morning so my day will be awesome.

5.  “Do Not Despair”

This video creeps me the fuck out, but it’s also mesmerizing.

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