OK, Which 'RuPaul’s Drag Race' Queen Has the Best Music Career?
We did this for you, the public.
Some people turn to spirituality for guidance. Others turn to self-help books, the arrangement of planets in the cosmos, or daytime television. We, personally, turn to the many queens of RuPaul's Drag Race. In all their class, cinching, contouring and skill sets beyond all reasonable comprehension, RuPaul's queens are more than entertainers. They are artistes; innovators of taste, benefactors of pleasure and spillers of tee. They are the great philosophers of our time. When they lip sync for their lives they are, in fact, graciously providing sustenance for the rest of us as well.
Unsurprisingly, many of these iconic givers of life have wound up in the music industry at some point, blessing the world with all manner of emotions and messages that can only truly be communicated by men who look better in thigh-high boots than Kylie Minogue. So we decided to rank their music careers, which was a ridiculous idea because they are all perfect. We've inevitably missed a few, because there have been well over one hundred contestants and we didn't want to die writing this, but we've done our best. You can safely assume that we spent most of the day screaming.
17. PHI PHI O'HARA
When I was 12, a good mate of mine stood up in class, unprompted, and burst into an extremely serious and screechy a cappella rendition of Hilary Duff's "What Dreams Are Made Of" from The Lizzie McGuire Movie, just to impress this guy who wore Colgate-coloured tracksuits every single day of the week. It wasn't bad, but it definitely wasn't good either, and the whole experience left me with a weird range of emotions: pity, then intense guilt for the pity, then a deep discomfort and annoyance for the discomfort, then protectiveness, then fondness, then pity again.
These feelings were once again brought to the surface every time Phi Phi O'Hara opened her mouth on Drag Race season four, and emitted the sound of a deranged Disney princess, but with an expression that did not know it. As this clip from All Stars two will remind you, the girl did not have the range. She thought she had the range, but she did not have the range. That said, all the music she's released since has been coated in so much damn auto-tune, someone could probably tell me she is La Roux and I'd be like, "wow great new direction for La Roux!"
16. SHANGELA LAQUIFA
I'm sorry, but I cannot listen to Shangela's "Werqin Girl" without switching it off halfway through and turning up RuPaul's infinitely more iconic "Supermodel (You Better Work)" instead, because the former is essentially a watered-down version of the latter, which was released hundreds of years ago (okay, it was 24 years ago). Having said that, Shangela looks mighty fierce in this video, and has come a long way since falling fresh out of Texas and into Drag Race with a skewed wig, a staunch refusal to contour, and a collection of questionable catchphrases. Still, two music videos do not a music career make. HALLELOO!
15. LAGANJA ESTRANJA
It is impossible to listen to this song without being confronted by the image of Laganja Estranja performing a sickening death drop every four seconds as per one of the most iconic entrances in Drag Race herstory. As much as this song is about taking a dick, it also, more importantly, feels as though it was written specifically so Laganja could soundtrack her own entry to a room. Basically, it's designed to throw your back out, one way or another. Until Rye Rye shows up and sets everything on fire, Laganja's flow is actually pretty good for someone who, out of drag, looks like Peewee Herman cosplaying Robyn.
The rest of her music career has mostly been spent screeching "WEEEED" over a super dirty early 00s Christina Aguilera beat and choreographing for the likes of Brooke Candy and Miley Cyrus. Miley Cyrus, of course, coming second only to Laganja in the race for pop stars who are extremely about marijuana cigarettes and oral sex. But if your flesh isn't rippling while "Legs" comes on something is terribly wrong with you, sorry.
14. THE HEATHERS
If a group who came in second on X Factor released this as their initial bid for fame outside reality television – which is the exact sort of thing someone who came in second on X Factor would do – it would be denounced more widely than "red, white and blue Brexit". However, this is no ordinary group, from no ordinary reality television show. This is The Heathers – the teen slasher movie-referencing supergroup comprising queens Carmen Carrera, Raja, Delta Work and Manila Luzon. Reworked to sound like a Sugababes track replete with semi-nude hunks, BDSM masks and a Colt 45 shout out, this particularly iconic edition of "Lady Marmalade" gets increasingly vivacious as it goes along until Carmen Carrera is twerking in nipple pasties and aforementioned semi-nude hunk very slowly grinds a sex chair. After watching this about 567 times I can confirm there is no song that can't be upgraded by putting in a break where someone shouts: "oh my god, somebody hand her the lube!"
13. COURTNEY ACT
There is something inexorably sincere and cocksure about Courtney Act that would be insufferable if she wasn't so fucking good at everything. This right here puts the majority of pop artists major labels have attempted to push in the last five years to shame. Name me one thing Rita Ora has done that is half as good as this. No, you cannot. This is basically a Chainsmokers song released a year before they did that one that everyone likes now. It is the perfect song to throw someone's clothes out of the window to. It is Ellie Goulding with superior range. It is, well, it's not quite as good as Carly Rae Jepsen but it's pretty close. On a scale of Magnolia Crawford's contouring to Courtney Act's legs, this is extremely Courtney Act's legs.
12. JINKX MONSOON
Who knew that what we really needed in this life was a vaudevillian musical theatre-style cover of Radiohead's "Creep" from a drag queen dressed like a nightmarish Alice in Wonderland character while performing a puppet show to scared-looking children? But here we are, and it's glorious. These three and a half minutes aren't an accurate reflection of Jinkx Monsoon's entire music career, though, as she's also released two whole albums, each filled with songs that are wildly different to each other. Exhibit A: this filthy club banger that comes with a music video crammed with men's ripped abs on Grindr. Exhibit B: This extravagantly sung burlesque ode to bacon. Exhibit C: This completely lyric free lounge-style samba song. Do with that information what you will.
11. MISS FAME
Sometimes, when it's late at night and my mind wonders to the Big Existential Questions that plague this life, I wonder whether it was a mistake for the producers of Drag Race to include Miss Fame in the same season as Violet Chachki. After all, only one of the two best friends could win, and when Violet sashayed down that runway in the "death becomes her" challenge with a waist cinched so hard I had to squint to check it was still there, I just knew it would be her. Since then, though, Miss Fame has released an album, Beauty Marked, and it truly is a work of pure pop genius. "Rubber Doll" sounds like something Katy Perry would have released if she was raised by two dominatrix's in Berlin rather than two Pentecostal pastors in Santa Barbara. I will never, ever view organic carrots in the same way again.
10. RAJA GEMINI
If you watch Drag Race as religiously as we do (let's be real, you will not have read this far down our magnum opus if you don't), you will know that Raja can do anything she puts her mind to. Need an entire costume put together in an hour? She can do it in six seconds, using materials that she pulled out of her arse, blindfolded. Need someone to transform a face into a work of art? Girl, Raja practically invented the faces of Dita von Teese, Pamela Anderson, Tyra Banks and Twiggy. They would not have faces without her makeup expertise. It therefore makes sense that her music career would follow this trajectory of extremely loud perfection. No one else on earth, for instance, could have a music video intro that is nearly as long as the actual track. Or a music video that is just her, a white background, and an endless carousel of equally stunning looks. Or a song called "Zubi Zubi Zubi" which contains Raja dressed up as a hella sexy Ganesh. We'll leave you with that final image.
9. WILLAM BELLI
Let me preface this by saying I love Britney Spears more than I love some of my own family members and I wish her nothing but success and joy. However. However. I wouldn't be entirely devastated if her Vegas residency was pulled and replaced by Willam Belli performing this on repeat, writhing on stage in a sheepskin rug under the glare of one hundred studio lights, for an hour and a half, every night, until the world expires because it has exhausted itself fist pumping. If you thought "Gimme More" was the sexiest mess you've ever seen then may I please divert your attention to "Trouble" by Willam Belli, for "Trouble" by Willam Belli is an almost exact play-by-play with hotter men and fewer bowler hats. And, honestly, in what world has that ever not been an improvement?
8. DETOX ICUNT
Detox Icunt – AKA the queen who appeared in Drag Race season five looking like someone's wacky, don't-give-her-a-gin, always-in-leggings aunt Tanya and returned for All Stars two as a fully botoxed club kid with a neon green bowl cut – has lent her vocals to seven singles to date, and they all sound like Kesha, if Kesha was deeply into ketamine and comedy parody videos about Jewish people at Christmas.
Honestly though, I feel like because Detox has extremely naughty eyes and hypnotising, slabs of rubber for lips, she could actually get away with doing anything, including the above video for "Supersonic", which sounds like every single song played at G-A-Y Late on any given night, mushed up in a blender and then puked up on a hangover. Which is exactly why she features so highly on this list.
7. PEARL LIAISON
Pearl Liaison is legit the sexiest and most bad AF bitch to have ever sashayed (or casually dragged her heels, as it actually was) down RuPaul's runway. On top of that, she had an angry staring competition with RuPaul, on his show – that's like starting a fistfight with Oprah, or having sex against the gravestone of someone you know, or snorting coke off your nan's gentle, downy-haired head while she naps; it's just not something that's generally done.
Anyway, Pearl's music career thus far has been just as we'd hoped. The video for "Love Slave", for instance, features Pearl in a skin-tight leather dress just staring the fuck out of this half-naked dude in red buttless chaps. She released a track called "Bang Bang (All Night)" which is essentially just four and a half minutes of heavy thumping. I'm convinced that "Die With Me" is a musical ode to asphyxiation. In fact, her whole album, Pleasure, just sounds like sex and drugs, liquidised into one filthy mess. And her cheekbones go on for years. Pearl Liaison is winning at life.
6. VIOLET CHACHKI
Can you imagine what would happen to the internet if Rihanna released this? None of us would be here today. We would have all drowned, sadly. Wiped out by a tsunami of thinkpieces about sexuality and ownership. And yet this video, this work of art, in which Violet Chachki is serving you 50s housewife realness and the most erotic moments committed to music video since Pitbull's trousers in "Fun", is the most irresponsible thing I have ever seen. Within every aesthetic decision lies the power to kill. In the time it has taken me to write this I have died five times but fortunately it also provides so much life everything sort of evens out.
What begins as a Betty Crocker-style look at the past rapidly nosedives into a smorgasbord of S&M, with Violet Chachki as a dominatrix reclining in leather underwear on top of two caged sex slaves and dumping ice cream on a mustachioed daddy. If heaven and hell are real then I am convinced that at both gates you will be met by Violet Chachki in bondage ties, pushing her legs apart, staring directly into your soul and saying "dinner's ready". In which case, literally slay me.
5. BOB THE DRAG QUEEN
Trying to count the number of looks in the video for "Wrong Bitch" is like trying to count how many times someone from Trump's team says "fake news" on any given day. It is impossible. Between Bob the Drag Queen and Todrick Hall there are infinite looks. Looks for days. Looks spiralling into the far distance like club lights multiplying in a K-hole. This is easily the best link-up anybody from Drag Race has ever done (sorry Adore D'alaska). Not only is it a certified club banger that operates beyond the realms of drag, not only did they insert drag into a traditionally mainstream sound with more black glitter than Christmas in Harlem, but it also rapidly confirms itself as a Black Lives Matter track. Bob the Drag Queen literally enters the song with the bar: "If you think that this witch won't expose / The fact that five-o's dropping houses on hoes" while working green face paint, a white PVC bodysuit and The Cookbook-era Missy Elliott hair. "Shook", I believe, is the term most often used.
4. ALYSSA EDWARDS
Okay so Alyssa Edwards has only released one official video, the above "Tongue Pop the Halls!", from her Haus of Edwards Christmas album, but this fact is frankly irrelevant because… because… just listen to it. Soak it all up like an Absolut cocktail in the Interior Illusions lounge. Have you ever heard a Christmas song – nay, a song in general – that makes so little objective sense but so much existential sense at the same time? Have you ever witnessed something so inherently ridiculous, yet so powerful, that your stomach is immediately filled with tiny tornadoes of excitement and joy? I have had the line "deck the halls with lots of tongue pops" rattling around my skull for days now. Honestly, I think when the world inevitably suffocates itself to death in toxic waste before slowly imploding, Alyssa Edwards will slowly rise from the burning embers, her gigantic wig and neon nails unscathed, screaming "back rolls!" and loudly emitting tongue pops into the endless empty distance.
3. SHARON NEEDLES
Sharon Needles' first music video saw her stumbling down the street swinging a pumpkin handbag and pushing people into piles of bin bags before glassing a bouncer with a "no fats, no fems, no freaks" policy and taking over the club. It's hard to know what statements anyone would have left to make after that, but between the power-pop "Call Me on the Ouija Board" ft. Needles as a sexy It the clown, an Amanda Lepore appreciation track ft. Amanda actual Lepore and "Dracula" channelling Billy Idol via The Lost Boys, Needles has consistently reinvented horror and gore in a variety of theatrical, avant-garde and also quite serious ways.
Her most recent, "Hollywouldn't" is visually a one-woman "Sissy That Walk" but I'm absolutely fine with that to be honest; it's so perfectly choreographed she even blinks in time with the beat. Dissecting the glamour and tragedy of fame in a way Lana Del Rey could never, it's darkly pop in a way that would make it ideal for one of those philosophical-but-not-really car adverts, which is impressive considering Needles wanted it to sound like "a murdered 16-year-old teenage virgin at the bottom of a pond that would never be found". Name me one other person who could straddle the line between Morticia Addams and Laura Palmer so perfectly tucked and I will show you a liar.
2. ADORE DELANO
Adore Delano is the Katy Perry we never had. From the second she walked onto season six with the words: "My name is Adore Delano, I'm 23 years old and I'm a fucking Libra" to the second she walked onto All Stars two with the words: "My name is Adore Delano and I'm a messy slut", she has been a beautiful, sloppy punk Barbie trying to have a good time while screaming about her "hog body".
Every time Adore Delano is on camera is an outstanding moment. "DTF" is the only song anyone really needs about cheap, nasty laundromat sex; "Dynamite" and "I Adore U" are reminders that in or out of drag there's a voice so good it shot Adore to fame on American Idol in the first place; and "I Look Fucking Cool" is a rebuttal to the naysayers who considered her take on drag lesser for its apparent lack of effort and sewing skills. Adore is cute and disgusting, savage while playing dumb; she's "polish remover, ratchet couture, a goddamn mermaid", bitch. People say we're starved for interesting pop stars these days, to whom I say: what more do you want than a glam-rock Valley girl in an Alice In Wonderland dress spitting everywhere and singing "wrap it up, get a room / 99 nos balloons"? Party.
1. ALASKA THUNDERFUCK
There was never any question that Alaska Thunderfuck would top this list. Dressed like an unholy mixture of Marilyn Monroe, Leigh Bowery and Divine, but with a face pumped for the gods with collagen, and a voice like Barbie after smoking 50 fags, this queen has more talent and magnetism than all your faves in hell combined. She's also one of the only Drag Race contestants who used her spindly tattooed limbs to properly smash through the confines of the "drag" genre, topping the US and UK dance charts with her album Anus, and following it up with an equally filthy creation called Poundcake.
Seriously: her 2014 hit "Your Make Up is Terrible" should be hung up on the halls of pop genius, beside Cher's "Believe" and Daniel Bedingfield's "Gotta Get Thru This" and everything by Prince. She has single-handedly transformed the way a generation greets each other (with a nasal "hieeeeeeee", to be found and enjoyed on comedian Phoebe Robinson's podcasts, for example). She released a song called "This is My Hair" which contains a chorus that is just her, repeating "This is my hair" in a Russian accent, over and over again.
Alaska Thunderfuck is funny and brutal and camp and trashy, and even when the internet turned against her after she threw a frankly iconic hissy fit on All Stars two, she somehow managed to spin it into a work of art, making all the snake emojis people were firing at her on Twitter look like confetti. In her own words: "I am the queen who takes the tragic and turns it into magic, I take trash and turn it into treasure...I am Alaska, and I am America's NEXT. DRAG. SUPERSTAR!"
(Lead press image by Santiago Felipe)