Well it looks like the most wonderful time of year is upon us. After months of anticipation and futile speculation on the internet, the Season 8 cast of RuPaul’s Drag Race has been announced. We thank you, Mother Ru, in your beneficence, for bestowing upon us another season of the greatest, gayest show on television. In celebration, I’ll be counting down the Top Ten Best Songs released by queens from past seasons of Drag Race. Hilarity and death drops will ensue.
10. Ecstasy – Courtney Act
Truthfully, I don’t always love Courtney Act’s vocals. I tend to come away from her music consistently wishing that she would have bumped the key down a step and been a bit less ambitious with the falsetto pyrotechnics. That said, Ecstasy, from her recent Kaleidoscope EP is proof that when Ms. Act sets her mind to it, she can churn out really polished, listenable pop music. Overall Kaleidoscope attempts to vault over standard drag queen dance music and land in the realm of “legitimate” pop music. It achieves varying degrees of success, but Ecstasy is the track where Courtney Act’s mainstream viability is demonstrated most successfully. Lyrically it’s pretty standard pop-EDM fare, but compared to some other Ru Girls, it’s practically Chopin.
9. American Apparel Ad Girls – Alaska Thunderfuck, Courtney Act, Willam
Initially brought together as collaborators on a line of limited edition American Apparel shirts, Alaska, Courtney and Willam have since formed something of a supergroup, touring and recording music together. However American Apparel Ad Girls still stands as their best collaboration to date. Admittedly it took me awhile to understand that the point of the song was literally just them saying weird things, but it’s immensely catchy and really, really funny. The first time I heard Willam thoughtfully utter “Lupita Nyong’o,” I ugly-laughed in public and people stared at me.
8. Chow Down at Chick-Fil-A – DWV
Ahh DWV. The drag queen supergroup to end all drag queen supergroups. Initially created and posted as a response to the controversy surrounding Chick-Fil-A’s donations to anti-LGBT groups, Chow Down at Chick-Fil-A began a three woman show that would eventually go full-on Dreamgirls. Regardless, this song was essentially responsible for putting the spotlight on the time-honored tradition of drag parody songs. Playing off Wilson Phillips’ exquisitely overblown hit, Hold On For One More Day, the song is an ironic ode to the fried chicken behemoth. As Willam himself states in the description for the video on YouTube, “If drag queens endorse Christian-right owned Chick-fil-A, is it still an endorsement? NOPE.”
7. Sissy That Walk – RuPaul
A lot of RuPaul’s music is not good. She is the queen mother of the drag universe, and a groundbreaking pop cultural figure, but Beyoncé she is not. However every once in a while, perhaps just by virtue of sheer output (mother Ru puts of A LOT of music), she strikes gold. Such is the case with Sissy That Walk. The song, off Born Naked, is a glamorous trap-adjacent track featuring slicker-than-usual production and some real-live, actual hooks. It’s a campy, glamorous catwalk song that doesn’t sound like it was recorded in Ru’s basement. Truly no greater or gayer song was ever created for whiling away time on the elliptical.
6. Werqin’ Girl – Shangela Laquifa Wadley
Look, I know drag queens doing dance music has been done to death. Trust me, I get it. But from time to time a queen manages to create a piece of dance music so forcefully fabulous, so deeply stupid, that even the most ardent haters must surrender themselves unto it. Werquin Girl is such a song. The beat is pulsing and insistent, the chorus is simple—she is a professional—and even the very awkward attempts at rapping seem self-aware and endearing. It’s the sort of anthemic number that inspires poor voguing when you’ve had a few too many at the bar.
5. My Address Is Hollywood – Adore Delano
One of the more bona-fide singers to come out of RPDR, Adore Delano makes some of the most consistently good pop music of any Drag Race alum. It’s polished and original and possessed of the kind of faux-rock harshness that lends itself well to mainstream music. Sometimes she can get a bit overdone and self-referential, but on My Address is Hollywood she manages to infuse a standard synth-ballad with a rare singular intensity. Her vocals, which can sometimes border on affectation, take on the kind of gritty beauty that elevates the song to something almost…moving?
4. Dance With You – Max
In the wake of announcing the season seven cast, RuPaul et al released CoverGurlz2, a schlocky compilation of the season seven queens covering RuPaul tunes. If that sounds like a bit of a hot mess that’s because it was. But buried in amongst grossly auto-tuned contributions by Miss Fame and Pearl was a shockingly good cover of Dance With You, by the then-unknown Max. Where others had succeeded in creating mostly hilarious digital garbage, Max elevated the once-cheesy dance track into the realm of glittering Euro-EDM. On top of that, the accompanying video was a bold visual manifesto for one of the most original RPDR alumnae to date.
3. Why Do You Think You Are Nuts – Sharon Needles.
Ok, let’s set aside a discussion of Sharon and her laundry list of offensive public behaviors immediately. I don’t have the time or the word count to discuss them, and honestly it makes me sad. For me, this song exemplifies why I first fell in love with Sharon Needles. It, like her, is so far removed from anything else that has been produced by any other Drag Race queen. It’s not campy dance music nor parody nor radio-friendly pop music. It’s an honest-to-god punk song accompanied by a music video that looks like it was shot on public access cable in 1994. While not as popular as some of her other singles (Call Me On the Ouija Board, This Club Is a Haunted House, etc.) it nevertheless stands as a riotous tribute to the political and deeply subversive power of drag at its very best.
2. Your Makeup Is Terrible – Alaska Thunderfuck
Full disclosure: I love Alaska Thunderfuck. This song exemplifies all of the reasons that I love her. It’s tacky, hilarious, incredibly smart, and at times completely deranged. Honestly I don’t even have much to say about it because it completely speaks for itself. Stop reading immediately and watch.
1. Supermodel (You Betta Work) – Rupaul
I mean, c’mon—did you really think any other song was going to be Number 1? This was the song that launched a thousand metaphorical ships, establishing Ru’s, and by extension all Drag Race alumnae, mainstream career. Really it’s still impressive when you consider that this track allowed a drag queen from the downtown New York club scene to transform herself into a pop cultural phenomenon. We used to do warm-aerobics to this song in PE at my Catholic middle school. If that’s not cross-over success, I don’t know what is.