In ‘Gone’, her new video with Charli XCX, the French pop star explores themes and ideas she’s been navigating her whole career
In Charli XCX and Christine and the Queens’ new music video, “Gone”, the two singers are bound together by rope between the opposing ends of a car until Chris escapes and unties Charli, climaxing with music and dance portrayed as a cathartic space while a fire burns around them. Although “Gone” is a Charli XCX song, and Chris is technically just a featured artist on it, the video contains striking parallels to many of the French pop star (real name Héloïse Letissier)’s previous music videos. Breaking free of constraints is a recurring motif in Chris’s videography: the trap in “Gone”, a burial dress in “Comme Si”, and a fairy-tale bird in “Girlfriend”. Pop culture images are disrupted, with seemingly contradictory elements (a matador and bull in “The Walker”; S&M gear under a suit in “5 Dollars”; fire and water in “Gone”) to signal complexity beyond the social judgments that drive the frustration in “Gone”.
She often portrays a solitary figure who finds solidarity with others: in “Tilted” and “Girlfriend”, it’s a group of misfits, in “The Walker”, it’s the bull, and in “Gone”, it’s a union of two escaped women. There’s also the theme of a boundary being transgressed, where a state of dormancy is disrupted: in “Comme Si”, Chris becomes Shakespeare’s Ophelia for a reversal of the famous death scene. Instead of the Ophelia immortalised in pop culture (a woman frozen in still water and dying of rejection), a sound of shattering glass rings out as she awakens and dances in the water that was supposed to be her gravesite. Then there’s the film references, from American Psycho’s shower scene and West Side Story’s choreography to Bound’s leather and ropes, that appear across the videos. That “Gone” shares some of these similarities isn’t a coincidence: the video was directed by Colin Solal Cardo, who also directed the majority of the videos from Christine and the Queens’ latest album, Chris, while Chris has also said that despite it being Charli’s song, she had ample freedom to be herself.
Below, we explore how Chris has shown a spectrum of ways to break free inside her music videos.
Christine and the Queens’ debut album, Chaleur Humaine, was made after the singer abandoned theatre for music. Her background in stage direction charges videos like “Tilted”, a song about “trying to embrace this weirdness, awkwardness of yours, all those thoughts and details that make you feel like you don’t belong”, as she told Genius. The video opens with an anonymous group in silhouette. The light moves and slowly unveils their faces, outlining the process of growing into your difference despite discouragement from the type of alienating social settings that frustrate the outsiders in the “Gone” lyrics. The visual metaphor in the word “Tilted” is replicated directly in the video’s choreography, where Chris and her dancers lean askew, literally off-kilter. The album’s commercial success resulted in a spike in fame that left Chris uncomfortable, wanting to expand and complicate the image fastened to her.
The music video for “Girlfriend” was the first we saw from Christine and the Queens’ follow-up album, Chris, and it was a clearly marked change from her previous era, where Chaleur Humaine’s suits and long hair were traded for a cropped t-shirt and closely shorn hair – a strikingly androgynous, athletic look. The video opens with Chris facing opposite the camera, wistfully looking out on a vista with a bird on her shoulder. This soft, dreamy image is suddenly disrupted as she shakes the bird off, jumps down, and joins a group of people to dance and quarrel in a riff on West Side Story against florid backdrops inspired by Rainer Werner Fassbinder’s Querelle. “The first album was about a young, queer girl who was a bit melancholic, but now I’m flexing my muscles,” she said of the change.
“DOESN’T MATTER” (2018)
The “Doesn’t Matter” video opens with Chris dejected, lying flat on the ground in an empty parking lot. This image is another example of stasis that is used as a dramatic contrast to the climactic choreography of the video, as she gets up and joins another figure she eventually dances and spars with. This is an ambiguous relationship depicted entirely in choreography, taking inspiration from the dance scene between Juliette Binoche and Denis Lavant in Leos Carax’s Lovers on the Bridge. Chris says that she writes her music to be performed, creating it with performance and choreography in mind. The existential, socially anxious lyrics (“Loud whispers in my back as if I couldn’t hear / Thought I left ghosts behind but they’re just coming near”) are contrasted by the song’s intentionally upbeat momentum, a combination mirrored by the changing moods of the video’s dancers.
“5 DOLLARS” (2018)
As synthpop swirls in “5 Dollars”, Chris is a character getting ready to go out. Her penchant for ambiguity is at its height in this video: although exiting the video in a suit, she has a harness and collar underneath (selected from her closet of S&M gear), and cuts and bruises across her back are glimpsed in the shower. These motifs allude to the worlds of sex and murder in American Gigolo and American Psycho, films with masculine “scenes of creation” that inspired the video. The latter film is referenced in shots of her muscles moving when she’s doing push-ups or when her stare eerily trails the screen as she’s in the shower. These moments of bare skin are not framed as sweetly sexy or vulnerable but mysterious with a tinge of menace, underlining the song’s theme questioning sexual power dynamics. The absence of emphasis on hair and makeup makes her penetrating gaze and sharp bone structure the focal point. Suspense over her prior activities and future endeavors peak in the finale, where she puts on gloves as she stares at herself in the mirror and exits the building with a suitcase, leaving the door open.
“THE WALKER” (2018)
Chris’s following music video portrays another dissolve of common binaries: “The Walker” shows Chris being met with glares as she walks alone through a town of judgmental people. She has a cut on her cheek (“I am out for a walk / And I will not be back ’til they’re staining my skin,” she sings) and sheds her matador jacket not long before meeting a bull who she befriends, despite her attire. They exit the town together into a wide landscape at sunset and in the clip’s closing shot, the would-be bullfighter cradles the bull.
The triumph of the collaboration between Chris and Charli XCX is a testament to both artists: Chris’s lyrical creativity and Charli’s reputation as an adventurous figure in pop who is heavily collaborative and uses her platform to boost other artists, her peers and the more underground. Charli deemed the video her favourite she’s made, explaining how it “was not choreographed or premeditated. It’s Chris and I… doing what we felt with each other that day.” In a series of Instagram story highlights about the video posted by director Colin Solal Cardo, an image of the Wachowskis’ 1996 film Bound was included as an inspiration. The movie depicts a woman who helps free her girlfriend, trapped in a desperate situation involving motifs of ropes and a car. Both women are underestimated by everyone around them and their bond leads to a victorious escape, paralleled in the “Gone” clip as two of pop’s most audacious stars free one another.