French art-pop singer Christine and the Queens announced a surprise 2-track EP, Joseph, this week, featuring covers performed in her appearance on Global Citizen Live. The covers depart both from the original, and from Christine’s back catalogue, showing the artist’s fearless creativity and distinctive artistic vision.
The EP opens with ‘Comme l’oiseau’, a cover of Michel Fugain and Le Big Bazar’s ‘Fais comme l’oiseau.’ Christine and the Queens (aka Héloïse Letissie) eschews the big-band sound of the original for a haunting choral arrangement. The organ that creeps in midway through adds to the atmosphere, and helps transform a carefree song into something that could come from a horror movie soundtrack. Despite the traditional instruments used, the track somehow manages to feel modern, swapping between Letissie’s dramatic vocals, and a chanting chorus, over which Letissie’s voice swoops like the birds from the song she is singing.
‘Freedom’ trades the dancefloor for a gospel choir in an uplifting, synth-infused cover of George Michael’s ‘Freedom! ‘90’. George Michael didn’t come out until 1998, so coming from the mouth of an openly queer singer, lyrics like “Sometimes the clothes don’t make the man” take on a new meaning, rebranding the iconic George Michael song for a new age.
Musically, too, this song sounds a lot closer to Christine and the Queens’ usual output, full of powerful chords and offbeat drum machines. Christine retains the uplifting soulfulness of George Michael’s version, but shakes off the outdated, 90s piano hooks, leaving us with a sleeker, punchier version.
The album artwork cleverly meshes the religious feeling and bird motif from ‘Comme l’oiseau’ with classic George Michael-esque slicked-back hair and an unbuttoned shirt. This clever nod to both songs depicts a metamorphosis, a theme that Christine and the Queens frequently returns to in her music, and which inspires both songs on the EP.
The two covers sound sharply at odds, not only with each other, but with the original songs that they borrow from. Christine and the Queens shows her talent for adding new twists to classics, and breathing her personality into everything that she creates.
Words by Martha Storey
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