Swedish queen of pop Robyn may have headlined day three of the 2019 Øya festival in Norway, but it was French artist Christine and the Queens who really got the crowd’s attention Friday night (Aug. 9).
During a passionate performance bursting with energy and supported by a sensual theatrical dance squad, Christine and the Queens opened with “Comme si” from 2018’s Chris album and continued to play with gender and language throughout her one-hour show.
Singer Héloïse Letissier, who also goes by Chris, brought out six dancers who displayed precise choreography and reflected power and gender struggles in a playful yet powerful way. A former dancer herself, Chris performed on a smaller stage three years ago at Øya, but this time stepped onto the main stage.
Known for releasing her music in both English and French, Chris decided to sing mostly in English for her Øya performance, but threw in some flirty French at times, which drew wild cheers from the crowd.
Chris’ music and live show reflect the tattoo on her right arm, which reads, “We accept you.” Following the energetic song “Le G,” she slowed down with “The Walker” before speeding up again with the playful “Goya Soda.” During the song “Five Dollars,” she asked the audience to accept all different kinds of love. And while performing her hit song “Tilted,” the singer encouraged fans to “accept that you’ll always be slightly tilted” — and to enjoy it.
Next up was Swedish pop icon Robyn, one of the festival’s biggest stars, who opened with her song “Send to Robyn Immediately,” from her long-awaited (eight years, to be exact) 2018 album, Honey, and followed with the title track. She played the role of icy queen of pop well, draped in white and silver with a see-through curtain covering most of the stage early in the set. Despite the curtain getting in the way at times and some technical difficulties, Robyn powered through her performance unfazed.
Friday’s Øya set marked Robyn’s third visit to the festival, and she seemed happy to speak her mother tongue to her neighboring Norwegians. The singer, who’s been a Scandinavian star since her breakthrough hit “Show Me Love” in 1998, had many loyal and enthusiastic followers in the crowd her sang along to her music.
When it came time for her hit “Dancing on My Own,” it felt like all 17,000 attendees at Øya were singing and dancing together. The crowd sang the entire chorus without any support from the singer. Robyn followed up with “Call Your Girlfriend” and ended with her 2014 hit “Who Do You Love.”
With a 49% gender balance at Øya, the two queens of the night were supported by several other young female artists. Among them was Girl in Red (aka Marie Ulven), who is one of this year’s most lauded newcomers in Norway. The 20-year-old musician’s stage presence was intense and joyful as she kicked off the set with “Girl,” a song about easily falling in love with both girls and boys.
The young queer artist has already received international attention, and was ecstatic about having been recognized by Billie Eilish. “Billie Eilish owns the world,” Ulven exclaimed to the crowd. But at Øya she owned her own universe — her energy and joy marking every song. She finished with Øya’s first stage dive, jumping into the crowd during her hit song “Girlfriend.”
Local hip-hop star Musti, who told the crowd her home was only two minutes from the festival grounds, performed in the time slot between Robyn and Christine and the Queens. Although her music differs from the two singers, the message is similar: to be who you are even if it means not fitting in.
At 18 years old, Musti performed with confidence and had a stage presence of a seasoned artist. With a Somali background, she sang about her mother, neighborhood, and the importance of being one’s self. Musti’s Friday performance marked her third appearance at this year’s Øya even though she hasn’t officially released any music yet.