Album Reviews

Christine And The Queens – Paranoïa, Angels, True Love

(Because) UK release date: 9 June 2023

Three discs of music loosely based on Angels In America is easier to admire than to enjoy, but you can’t fault the ambition

Christine And The Queens - PARANOÏA, ANGELS, TRUE LOVE There’s a lot to take in on Christine And The Queens‘ fourth album. Ostensibly a follow-up to last year’s Redcar les adorables étoiles (prologue), it consists of three separate discs, has a running time of one hour 36 minutes, and is inspired by a Broadway play which is almost as unwieldy – Tony Kushner’s supernatural-adjacent examination of Aids and homosexuality in 1980s America, Angels In America (a play which you’ll need a good eight hours to get through).

The ambition is laudable, but it’s an undeniable slog to listen to. Redcar was often a baffling journey, but – as its title made clear – it was just the prologue. Paranoïa, Angels, True Love is packed with tracks that aren’t so much songs as extended workouts, and while each disc has its own identity, it’s very much designed to be listened to as a whole.

The first disc, Paranoïa, is possibly the closest to the sleek pop that Chris made his name with. Producer Mike Dean (who’s been responsible for an impressive list of RnB/hip-hop albums over the years, including Beyoncé, Kanye West and The Weeknd) drapes his signature style over the songs, and on tracks like Tears Can Be So Soft – built around a sample of a Marvin Gaye song, and one of many tracks about Chris’ late mother – the results are hypnotically beautiful. Full Of Life is a clever redrawing of Pachelbel’s Canon and talks of gender identity (“Even though you see me, you’ll never let me be your boyfriend”) and Madonna makes the first of her three appearances on Angels Crying In My Bed. She only ever makes a spoken word contribution on the record, but it still sounds unmistakably like Madonna.

It’s towards the end of Paranoïa that you start to wish that Chris had employed an editor. Track 10 (it’s actually the 7th track) is an 11 minute jam which is drawn out way behind its natural conclusion. The theme is carried on to the second disc, Angels, which has more of an operatic bent to it.

And it’s on Angels where the figure of Chris’ mother is most prominent – He’s Been Shining For Ever, Your Son is so dramatic that it becomes almost oppressive to listen to, with Dean framing Chris’ increasingly intense vocalisations around a huge arrangement. It sounds enormous, but there’s not much of a melody there – which makes the appearance of the gorgeous piano line which opens Flowery Days so welcome. It’s definitely the highlight of Angels, together with the shimmery pop duet with 070 Shake, True Love.

The final disc, True Love, features the best of the Madonna collaborations in Lick The Light Out, possibly the key track on the album where Chris confronts his grief and, after Madonna’s spoken word contribution, a weight seems to lift from the song, producing a kind of slow-burn euphoria. Tracks like To Be Honest and We Have To Be Friends are probably the album’s most pure ‘pop’ moments, while I Feel Like An Angel takes all the Angels In America references before the thunderous Big Eye brings the mammoth journey to a conclusion.

Paranoïa, Angels, True Love is not an album to dip into – it’s a record that’s designed to be lived in, which is a rarity in this age of instant gratification. It’s not an easy listen – in fact, sometimes it’s an uncomfortable one, and maybe that’s to be expected given the themes that Chris explores. It’s possibly an album that’s easier to admire than to enjoy, but you can’t fault his ambition.

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