French star Christine and the Queens back with new name, gender

One of France's biggest breakthrough musicians of recent years, best-known as Christine and the Queens, returns this week with not just a new album but a new name: Redcar.

Many artists have changed their names over the years for different commercial or personal reasons, from Prince and Cat Stevens to Snoop Dogg and Kanye West.

But the 34-year-old singer-songwriter, known for international hits such as "Tilted", "Girlfriend" and "People, I've Been Sad", has shifted moniker more than most.

Born Heloise Letissier, but now using male pronouns, the names have reflected a journey through different gender identities.

The character Christine and the Queens was born from his time among drag queens in London in the early 2010s, and was later shortened to just Chris.

"Redcar, like all my poetic and philosophical constructions, is a way of helping me realise myself," he said in a TikTok video in August, in which he announced he had embraced a fully male identity a year earlier.

The new character followed the sudden death of his mother in 2019. At the time, he kept seeing red cars in the street that he took as a symbol of her passing, he told The Guardian in a rare interview.

The first musical manifestation is "Redcar Les Adorables Etoiles", an album out Friday.

- Love symbol -

Name changes are common in music, not always for philosophical reasons.

The most famous was Prince, who changed his name to an unpronounceable "love symbol" in the 1990s as part of a long-running battle with his record label over control of his music.

Another famous case was 1970s folk star Cat Stevens, who changed his name to Yusuf Islam after becoming a Muslim.

Some have failed to stick: Snoop Dogg briefly went by the name of Snoop Lion after converting to Rastafarianism in 2012, but quickly returned to his familiar 1990s handle.

In recent Netflix documentary, "Jeen-yuhs: A Kanye Trilogy", the pre-fame rapper jokes about one day being famous enough to shorten his name first to Kanye and then just Ye -- and sure enough, that happened, with a legal name-change last year.

Sinead O'Connor has changed her name twice -- first to Magda Davitt in 2017 in a bid to cut ties with her abusive childhood, and then to Shuhada Sadaqat after converting to Islam a year later -- though she continues to perform under her birth name.

Closer to Redcar's example is British poet-musician Kae Tempest, who dropped the 't' from Kate when they came out as non-gender.

It's a move that can cause commercial confusion, and Redcar is still labelled as Christine and the Queens on streaming services and shops.

For them, it is just a natural part of artistic expression.

"It's not about marketing, or a smooth image, or a lie -- I'm an artist," he said on TikTok.

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