RuPaul is 53, and it has been more than 20 years since “Supermodel (You Better Work)” brought him tantalizingly close to the pop top 40. He has seen many pop-culture icons come and go since, but as the standard bearer of drag, he’s not only still standing but also flourishing.
Helping to celebrate the debut of the sixth season of his runaway success reality show RuPaul’s Drag Race, he’s released his sixth studio album Born Naked. And it appears to be a born winner. At No. 85, the album is his highest-charting on the Billboard 200. On the dance/electronic albums chart, Born Naked clocked in at a career-high No. 4.
Listeners unfamiliar with RuPaul’s music career will be pleasantly surprised by this solid, hook-packed collection of runway-ready dance pop. There are the expected floor-burning dance anthems such as “Dance With U” and “Modern Love.” RuPaul schools Britney Spears on what her Britney Jean dance workout “Work B**ch” should have sounded like with “Adrenaline.” To underscore the point, RuPaul chose Spears’ backup vocalist Myah Marie for a duet on “Adrenaline.”
The music that really stands out here are the surprises. RuPaul kicks off Born Naked stepping deep into hip-hop with New Orleans Bounce queen Big Freedia (performing at PrideFest on June 7) in tow. Planted in the middle of the song is an old-school disco-style “Don’t give me your love” refrain.
On another track, a collaboration with dance diva Martha Wash delivers a gospel-tinged recording of the ode to loving oneself “Can I Get an Amen?” On the title song and album closer, RuPaul joins with Australian rocker Clairy Browne to drive home the mantra, “We’re all born naked and the rest is drag,” in what sounds like a successor to Cyndi Lauper’s recording of “I Drove All Night.”
Tracks from Born Naked are not likely to come pulsating from your top 40 radio station any time soon. But RuPaul keeps the quality higher and stronger than many of today’s pop hits. A solid guest list helps bring home a great collection that will please RuPaul’s fans, as well as listeners pining for dance tracks with ‘80s pop flavor.
RuPaul Drag Race Battle of the Seasons comes to Milwaukee’s Turner Hall on April 29.
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