Sometime in 2020, the artist formerly known as Christine and the Queens saw a red car while walking the streets of Los Angeles. Then, a few days later, he saw a second one. A few days after that, yet another. Following the death of his mother in 2019—an event that left him unmoored and overwhelmed with grief—he began to take these sightings as a strange, superstitious sign. “It was as if an angel was nodding along, sprinkling its magic into my world,” he says. “It’s my choice to live in this strange, beautiful poetry, and Redcar is emblematic of that choice.”
So, then, to Redcar, the artist’s new moniker. (Christine and the Queens was always, after all, a stage persona for the artist born Héloïse Letissier; as was Chris, the more masculine figure he embodied on his second record.) It augurs the opening of a new creative chapter, ushering in his third full-length album, titled Redcar les adorables étoiles—“Redcar the adorable stars”—released this past weekend. The slow unveiling of this new identity has been shrouded in mystery, mostly glimpsed through cryptic missives on social media or images posted to Instagram over the past few months. These featured an array of seemingly contradictory figures: a Patrick Bateman-esque pinstripe-suited businessman wearing a single red leather glove, a Jean Genet sailor boy covered in body glitter, a coquettish dominatrix in red lipstick, a boxer in a lace bra, a lover and a fighter.
“Redcar is my current artist name, and like my many other names before, it bears a whole belief system; a particular poetry that unfolds to me as I understand it more by living it,” he says by way of explanation, even if Redcar’s gnomic approach to describing this new identity often raises more questions than they answer. “It allows me to explore everything under a new light.”
It’s been a tumultuous—but ultimately transformative—few years for the performer. First, there was his mother’s passing, the deep sadness of which seeps into songs like “Les étoiles,” in which he looks, misty-eyed, at the night skies: “The stars speak to me, mother- The stars speak to each other,” he sings over glittering, celestial synths. There was the dissolution of a romantic relationship, woven through the lyrics of the gorgeous “Rien dire,” or the gloriously funky “Combien de temps.” Meanwhile, the unusual rollout for Redcar—another album is already in the can, and likely to come at some point next year—reportedly led to conflicts with his record label, and while rehearsing for his handful of shows across Paris and London this month, a knee injury restrained his typically dance-heavy live vision, forcing him to postpone both the dates and the record’s release.
Perhaps the most consequential decision—eight years after singing “I’m a man now” on “iT,” the opening track of his debut album—was to embrace his identity as a trans man. “It has been palpable in most of my lyrics for 10 years now,” he says matter-of-factly. While Redcar doesn’t go into the specifics of what prompted this change, he notes that he’s bristled in the past at being encouraged (or even pressured) to commercialize his identity as a queer person. “We all have karma and fears, and lord knows this society is utterly terrible to people who escape the norm, still,” he says. “I always suspected that queerness and transness were flaunted hypocritically by capitalism, [as] a false dream of acceptance. Money is the conversation for them. How much they can make from what we believe in? I always refused all the ad campaigns around being happy and queer in my insert brand, because as long as equality and real respect are not in action, I don’t see why I would profit from this system.”
Redcar’s journey has been a turbulent one, he explains, and one he arrived at as a means of survival more than anything else. When he first spoke about his identity online earlier this year, some (unfairly) criticized him for wanting to retain a fluidity in how he presents himself, to which his answer is equally forthright. “My approach to transness is not especially going to be pleasing or reassuring, since I don’t believe I should comfort anyone with any type of passing,” he says. “My story is about tolerance and collective deconstruction. I want to keep my body as it is. I am coming out to be happy and free, to be loved and to love, to enjoy my flesh and its contradiction, to help expand everyone’s consciousness—by slowly, I hope, for future generations too, uprooting this binary, capitalistic approach to human life.”
It’s this sense of change, of a human being in motion and unrest, that courses through the album, and that has led some to call it his most impenetrable record yet. But like so many queer people before him, for Redcar, the process of coming into himself was never linear—and the album’s meandering, febrile energy is, in a sense, a reflection of that. “My art is always, always the deepest, most intimate, and wild distillation of everything I am going through in this life,” he says. “I simply cannot create without my heart and soul, and so it stems directly from it. It is the purest expression of it. Redcar is the depiction of what I’ve been going through.”
For while the confrontational spirit of the album’s lead single, “Je te vois enfin,” and the explorations of masculinity in all its guises that have accompanied it visually might have suggested that Redcar is a darker, harder person after the pain and rebirth of the past few years, the album really snaps into focus when you understand it as something entirely different: a tender ode to love and creativity, whatever that looks like. “I am just a devoted man,” he says. “Devoted to colors, hope, art, imagination, and poetry.” Or, as he recently wrote on Twitter: “Redcar’s a key.”
Now the key has turned the lock, the door has been flung open, and he’s ready for you to step into his world—a portrait of the artist unapologetically in flux. “Normal rules do not apply here,” he says of Redcar, the album. “I hope to appeal to your heart and mind, but I won’t beg for your love this time. Meet me halfway as I start the craziest artistic gesture of my life just yet. No posture here. I am not playing this time.” We’d expect nothing less.