RuCo Inc., 2022

REVIEW BY: Peter Piatkowski


Once upon a time, RuPaul was a legitimate recording artist. Her debut album, Supermodel of the World, was recorded on the legendary hip-hop and dance label, Tommy Boy Records and was an excellent mainstream take on house. But, as her career grew and she became an entertainment juggernaut with RuPaul’s Drag Race and its various related spin-offs and international franchises, not to mention the accompanying merchandising, tours, and Drag Con, music seemed to become a minor detail in Ru’s empire. “Now available on iTunes” has become a recurring joke on Drag Race, encapsulating her somewhat cynical approach to making music. Mamaru (Mama Ru is what Drag Race contestants call RuPaul) doesn’t indicate an important shift in her music, but there are some hints of genuine promise that suggest if RuPaul was interested, she could return to the excellence of her early music.

The album’s opening track is actually very good. The Hip house “Just What They Want” is an astute dancefloor banger that recalls early ’90s deep house. It sounds a lot like Ru’s 2017 song, “Call Me Mother,” another strong later RuPaul tune. The song is well-produced and stylish with lyrics that pay homage to ball culture. The track’s hotness and freshness will make listeners forget that this is the same RuPaul who grew into a one-name media brand name.my_heart_sings_the_harmony_web_ad_alt_250

Ru’s obsession with supermodels and fashion is indulged in the pulsing house-pop “Catwalk.” Featuring a rap solo by guest Skeltal Ki, it’s a solid, sleek number that sounds like something George Michael might’ve recorded. Ru’s lush vocals are good but she’s overshadowed by Skeltal Ki, who offers a witty cameo in a very sexy and engaging voice.

Unfortunately, after these two strong tunes, the rest of Mamaru feels like a series of missteps. RuPaul sounds best when she can croon over a pop-heavy melody. Also, she possesses a lovely voice, which is sadly mutilated and deformed through lots of studio trickery on too many of these songs. On the messy “Smile,” Ru is rendered nearly unrecognizable because of all the unnecessary and intrusive effects foisted on her voice. “Fascination” has the bones of a good song, but again, there’s far too much going on with the gaudy production that bleeds the tune and its singer of any distinction.

But the nadir of Mamaru is the defensive “Blame It On The Edit,” which refers to the idea that Drag Race contestants who emerge as villains do so due to the heavy manipulation of the show’s producers and the final edit. Some queens left the show unhappy at how they’re portrayed and have used social media to express their distress at how their images had been molded and sculpted by the calculating producers, as well as pointing their fingers at Ru, suggesting that the legendary performer is more interested in good TV drama than verisimilitude. But pouring out her contempt at these queens in song was a mistake: “Blame It On The Edit” is smug, bitter, and unpleasant to listen to—a shame, because the funky choppy production is actually very good. It feels like Ru is punching down and the nastiness of the tune feels out of sync to her “everybody say love” ethos.

As Ru continues to expand her media queendom, music feels increasingly marginalized as she seems to favor relying on her incredible charisma, smarts, and smarts to forge her TV career. Though she’s an incredibly gifted TV personality, she’s also a talented singer and songwriter. It would be great if her music was given more attention, because as is evident on the highpoints on Mamaru, she’s capable of doing outstanding work in the recording studio.

Rating: C+

User Rating: Not Yet Rated



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