Why Music Fans Should Be Watching RuPaul's Drag Race
Call it the chief paradox of modern pop culture: Most reality television shows blow, but we keep watching, because in a weird way, they're as compelling as they are mindlessly entertaining: The exploits of Honey Boo Boo's family may be exploitative, but, dammit, if they don't love each other. The Kardashians are the very definition of that "first world problem" meme, but we continue to watch, eager to bitch-slap Scott "Lord" Disick and watch Kim dab Kourtney's breast milk on her legs.
Which brings us to RuPaul's Drag Race, which finds itself in an interesting position, propelled higher than "so bad it's good" accolades to the perfect hodgepodge of music, drama, creativity, humor, and glamour.
RuPaul in and out of drag is entertaining enough; just look at the glam high jinks of To Wong Foo, Thanks for Everything! and his role as a butch camp counselor in But I'm a Cheerleader. Ru stands at the center of Drag Race, which involves a series of drag queens competing for the title of America's Next Drag Superstar. The show is just as catty and over-the-top as it seems, but it features some great music elements as well.
Cher done right by Chad Michaels
Most drag queens have fairly predictable muses. Cher and Barbra Streisand are pretty cliché by now, but that didn't stop Chad Michaels from doing a killer Cher impersonation (meanwhile Delta Work fell flat). Each season has its lows and highs. Usually, the more a pop star relies on their looks, the flatter the impersonation falls. Just look at Sonique's Lady Gaga in season two (and Phi Phi O'hara's attempt at Gaga in season four), and the mediocre portrayals of Alyssa Edwards' Katy Perry and Detox's Ke$ha.
But for every miss there's a stellar performance, especially in the case of Tatianna's hilariously dumb Britney Spears. In some cases, the impressions are awkwardly funny, like when Puerto Rican Yara Sofia struggled with imitating Amy Winehouse's British accent and went Scottish for a moment. Alexis Mateo took on Alicia Keys, who isn't typically a funny person, and excelled by flirting with Amber Rose in character.
Divas are a popular choice, as Shangela passionately portrayed Tina Turner in season four and Coco Montrese nailed the Janet Jackson look. Jinkx Monsoon's Little Edie put the rest of last night's queens to shame, but the pop star influence continues to rage on. Nicki Minaj's style has made a few appearances this season, with Monica Beverly Hillz' bad girl swagger and Coco Montrese's attempt to serve up her fishiest look last night.
The Guest Judges
Yes, this really happened.
Unlike shows that trump up each special appearance, the guests are pretty secondary on this show. But it's always exciting to have Lady Bunny or Chaz Bono make an appearance, because as Alaska said, "Chaz Bono came out of Cher's vagina," making him an easy shoe-in for the show.
Michelle Williams was one of the first judges, appropriately stepping in for the girl group episode of season one. Some appearances are pretty unexpected, with Henry Rollins sitting alongside Terri Nunn for the rocker chicks episode of season two. Season three featured quite a few R&B chanteuses that are popular in the gay community, including Vanessa Williams, Fantasia Barrino, and LaToya Jackson, who've made multiple appearances on the show.