Yes, I’m late, but it’s worth it, I hope. This album is the first artist to land a second AOTM, and after the effect the first had on all of us, it seemed almost too obvious to revisit it when there’s so much other music around. However, it’s actually a choice that makes so much sense, because really, there’s a definitive break from the past, and perhaps the appearance of one of the most exciting pop music artists for a long while.
So, what did we learn from Christine And The Queens’ sparkling debut in 2016? An album that was a spring sleeper hit (two years after it surfaced in France), relaunched in a post-Brexit haze where we all needed some musical escapism. In my case, I was one of those wandering around in a teary, beery, existentialist haze at Glastonbury whose day was transformed by one of those ‘moments’ that makes the festival so magical. Christine And The Queens’ set on the Other Stage as the rain fell was one that’ll stay long in the memory. There’s no way a French artist complete with slickly choreographed dancers should’ve melted muddy hearts but Tilted, iT, Narcissus Is Back and Here were pop music of the absolute finest. Rubbery synths, crisp percussion, and beguiling vocals singing about love and loss that sounded as enticing in English as in French. A star was born. But… what next?
The answer, flippantly, would be ‘Chris’. But for Héloïse Letissier it was more than just a change of title. The relentless touring and punishing nightly dance moves had transformed her into a leaner being, and with her success came sexual conquests too, but not man or woman, more whichever took her fancy. Pansexuality, freedom and inspiration. Yet the sonic inspiration for Chris – ‘Christine’s androgynous, confident, male-world-view alter-ego – harks back to the 80s and 90s, where r’n’b was in a renaissance with Michael and Janet Jackson at the fore. You can almost hear the Jam and Lewis influence in tracks like Girlfriend and Doesn’t Matter. But it’s original, punchy hooks and oblique lyrical references that are all her own rather than borrowed from the past, as she explores pansexual conquests from the side of the male gaze.
The result is an album that feels it could only be made by a French artist, such is the ambition, and openly artistic musings that would be sniffed at in England. A staggeringly individual collection of songs where Letissier writes, performs and produces almost every single note, and that should fire her even higher into the pop firmament. Fantastique!
If February the 3rd, 1959 was the day that music died when Buddy Holly, Ritchie Valens, and J. P. “The Big Bopper” Richardson all died in a plane crash, then surely 2016 will be remembered as the year that music died. From David Bowie dying in the early days of January to the passing of George Michael on Christmas day, you’d be hard pressed to find a music fan of any genre or era in the last 50 years that didn’t loose one of their heroes. Some of us were lucky enough to be treated to one final swan song with he likes of Bowie and Tribe Called Quest (Phife Dawg) releasing arguably some of their best work ahead of their departure, whilst all of the lost artists left us with music that will stay with us for our lifetimes.
2016 for me as a music fan was a strong year with a mixture of new artists and familiar faces releasing some very strong albums, especially within Hip Hop and Soul. I did how ever find that over all the UK seemed to take the foot off the gas after very strong years in 2013, 2014 and 2015. 2016 also saw coming out parties for many artists that were on the cusp of great things with the likes of Chance the Rapper, Anderson Paak and Solandge making strong statements of intent.
2017 is already looking to be a fantastic year for music. But ahead of us turning to the next chapter, please find my top tens of the year.
Tribe Called Quest – We Got It From Here… Thank You For Your Service
Michael Kiwanuka – Love and Hate
NxWorries – Yes Lawd
Baio – The Names
She Drew The Gun – Memoirs Of The Future
Frank Ocean – Blonde
Lapsley – Long Way Home
Anderson Paak- Malibu
Common – Black America Again
Kendrick Lamar – Untitled Unmastered
Jules Et Spatz – Rotwii Lied
De La Soul – Exodus
Moderate – Running (AME Remix)
Lee Burridge & Lost Desert – Lingala
Christine and the Queens – Titled
Mackelmore & Ryan Lewis – White Privilege II
Natia Rose – Sqwad
Matronomy – Old Skool
DJ Shadow feat Run The Jewels – Nobody Speak
David Bowie – Lazarus
- I decided to leave any tracks that were in my top ten albums off. Essentially, listen to those full albums.
Happy New Year brothers and I look forward to 2017!