From her very first studio album — 1993’s Supermodel Of The World — RuPaul‘s consistently kept herself tucked in between counterculture and mainstream superstardom.
After all, 22 years after its original release, “Supermodel (You Better Work)” is still just as prevalent in pop culture today. Or did you happen to miss our beloved Britney‘s loose interpretation last year? Work. Work. Work.
The fact is, Ru knows how to sashay her way around a record booth as well as she does a runway.
After teaming up with producer Lucian Piane for 2009’s Champion and again on 2011’s Glamazon, Ru’s only continued to ru-suscitate her music career, churning out deliciously campy-yet-catchy gems like “Jealous Of My Boogie,” “Tranny Chaser,” “Glamazon” and “Responsitrannity.” But Born Naked — her third go-around with Lucian, which was just released this week — might just be her most sickening record to date.
“Freaky Money” sees Ru getting twerk-in-cheek alongside New Orleans bounce superstar Big Freedia, dropping big, bouncy beats and even bigger brags as the cash flows: “Checkin’ out my NASDAQ while you lick my Snack Pack, I’mma ATM machine,” Ru coolly sing-raps. Big Freedia’s verse goes even harder, providing a gruff assist. But in the end, it’s all about that chorus, which’ll have you assuming the position and shaking dat moneymaker up against your bedroom wall: “Money, money, money, m-m-money!”
As “Jealous Of My Boogie” was to Champion, so too is “Sissy That Walk” to Born Naked — a blend of genuinely fierce inspiration (“Unless they playing your bills, pay them bitches no time”), genuinely hysterical dragspeak (“I’m a femme queen, mother of the House of No Shade/My pussy is on fire, now kiss the flame”) and a stupid beat drop to drive it all home. “Now sissy that walk!” It’s drag scripture from the get-go — and who better to deliver the sermon?
The features are hot and heavy throughout the record, from the guitar-driven “Born Naked” with nu-soul Aussie crooner Clairy Browne to the relationship-mending duet “Let The Music Play” (no, sadly not a Shannon cover) with Drag Race judge, Michelle Visage. Producer Lucian himself hops on the hand clap-heavy, booty bouncin’ “Geronimo” (which just got a visual with the help of one of my favorite twerkers, Julian Serrano, yum), keeping the twerkin’ action bouncing on into overtime. “(And they be slain) I slay these bitches double dutch!” Ru declares.
Later on, our favorite Britney back-up singer and My Crazy Girlfriend member Myah Marie joins Ru to serve a sizzling club scorcher, providing some undeniably Spearitual sensations — she even sings the phrase “dream within a dream” at one point! “Can I get, can I get it to go?” Myah purrs. This one wouldn’t sound at all out of place in between “Body Ache” and “Til It’s Gone” on Britney Jean, y’all.
When Ru’s not throwing shade, twerking with Big Freedia or getting high with Myah Marie, she’s going full-on solo club commander — which would surely make Madonna grin during her Hard Candy Fitness sets: “Dance With U” is a euphoric love letter on the dance floor (and you can dance…for inspiration!), while the futuristic trance trip “Modern Love” provides a little bit of Confessions On The Dance Floor-in-2014 realness: That spoken word bridge about unrequited love, especially, is the deal-maker: “It’s like…not wanting to belong to a club that would have you as a member, and I don’t want to live like that.” Gulp!
Ru isn’t always about turning the night, of course: “Can I Get An Amen” is essentially Ru’s most signature RuPaul’s Drag Race motivational speech set to a twangy, acoustic guitar accompanied by one half of the legendary original Weather Girls, Martha Wash: “If you can’t love yourself, how in the hell you gon’ love somebody else?” they soulfully croon. Hallelu!
But of all the emotional jams, it’s when electro-pop prince Frankmusik steps in for an assist that Ru truly soars to new sonic heights. “Fly Tonight” is an absolutely gorgeously crafted love song-turned-club cut that ought to be released as a single, stat: “We’re taking off, let’s go get lost!” Frankmusik earnestly cries, supplying his heaven-sent falsetto in the song’s bridge.
Born Naked is the equivalent of a handbook of daily affirmations read aloud by the glitter-drenched go-go boys in jock straps twerking on Twink Tuesday. It’s campy, it’s bitchy, it’s trashy, it’s empowering and, when you least expect it, oddly touching. (It’ll touch you in a variety of ways, actually.)
Really though, the truth tea is served often on Born Naked, and it’s piping hot: Ru’s got plenty of wisdom to impart upon these young queens about life and love, and it goes down a lot smoother (and realer) than most of the #ItGetsBetter pop being churned out on Top 40.
You better step your game up, pop princesses. No tea, no shade: This is how to serve worthy chart-topper realness, hunty.
‘Born Naked’ was released on February 24. (iTunes)