By Kieran Graulich
By now, everyone should be familiar with RuPaul’s image – fabulous, fashionable, and lavish. In theory, a personality like RuPaul’s almost lends itself to a music career – and, in fact, it has.
Although many people may not be aware, RuPaul’s fame is due largely to his music. His 1993 debut album, “Supermodel of the World” (great title, but nowhere near as good as 2008’s “Another Gay Sequel: Gays Gone Wild”) propelled the drag queen to stardom. While most know him as a TV show host and eccentric personality, RuPaul’s origins lie on the dancefloor.
However, it’s 2015 and RuPaul’s music career has fallen to the wayside. His last album, “Born Naked,” barely cracked the top 100 on the Billboard 200. His new album, “Realness,” comes just a year after “Born Naked” and a remix album, “Covergurls 2,” featuring the cast of “RuPaul’s Drag Race” Season 7.
“Realness,” for someone unfamiliar with RuPaul’s music, is both a surprise and exactly what you would expect. The game that the album plays is no surprise; “Realness” is an album of loud and garish dance songs particularly influenced by the sounds of European discotheques and 90’s dancefloors. Despite RuPaul’s name coming with the album, RuPaul, at least on the surface, is hardly a part of the album. For a large amount of this album’s runtime, RuRu is either heard through samples or one of the five interludes that pepper the album.
There is not as much RuPaul on this album as one would think there would be on a RuPaul album. His influence is mostly behind-the-scenes, as he is credited as the primary songwriter on every song. Yet, he is not credited as a producer, and most of the vocals on this album are contributed by guest artists.
Additionally, one would think that, given RuPaul’s image and personality, “Realness” would be wild, boisterous. However, in many places, “Realness” comes off as oddly reserved and inhibited. Besides a few highlights, “Realness” rarely strays far from a very safe formula for a typical dance song. One would imagine that the appeal of a RuPaul album would be the untamed energy and wild persona like a gaudy, fabulous rave. But instead, the listeners find themselves in a very typical, crowded and poorly lit club that you don’t mind going if you had nothing else to do to but wouldn’t miss if you skipped out on it.
Although certain tracks, such as “Step it Up” or the opening “L.A. Rhythm,” hit hard and give some of the RuPaul flare that one would hope for, “Realness” fails to deliver what one would hope to find on a RuPaul album…which is understandable, as the album has a clear intended audience and purpose, yet one would still hope to find a little something extra from an album from a figure such as RuPaul. Perhaps RuPaul has reached a point where he performs better on screen than in the clubs.
Kieran Graulich is a staff writer. Email him at firstname.lastname@example.org