Throughout her career of more than 40 years, RuPaul Charles has undoubtedly left a prominent mark on the worlds of pop culture, music and beyond. Bringing queerness and the art of drag to mainstream audiences has been a running theme throughout Charles’ life, from her 1992 hit “Supermodel (You Better Work)” to the creation of the ever-growing television spectacle “RuPaul’s Drag Race.” Never outdated and always eye-catching, it is easy for one to forget that the iconic artist is nearly 62 years old, proving both the longevity and widespread appeal of her lighthearted, love-centered ethos.
In the recent past, however, RuPaul has found herself in hot water: From accusations of transphobic casting practices on “Drag Race” to the hilariously outlandish discovery of her Wyoming-based fracking operation (yes, you heard that right), she often faces the brunt of wide-ranging criticism. Hoping to move past these controversies with the release of her latest album MAMARU, RuPaul returns to the music scene in order to remind listeners of her overarching — and sometimes overlooked — significance within queer and pop culture.
Starting the album off strong with “Just What They Want,” house synths and upbeat drum machines back RuPaul as she flaunts her magnificent lyricism. With incredibly smart rhyme schemes such as, “Fire resides inside her, the fever/ Got an open mind but she always keep her/ Eyesight set on the limelight/ Hides the shine by day, highness by night,” the track’s unequivocal highlight is RuPaul’s iconic rap stylings. With off-the-charts production quality and a super fun, danceable instrumental, the song is a shining star off the LP, building the listener’s expectations for the tracks to come.
The following track, “Catwalk,” featuring the New York-based producer Skeltal Ki is similarly impressive. With an encapsulating soundscape of pulsating synths, spliced vocal samples and a laid-back beat, the track can be thrown on repeat without ever growing old. With a grand vocal performance from RuPaul, lyrics such as “Hit ‘em with your catwalk/ Everywhere you go, everybody knows/ You’re somebody, the way you work that body” make for an entertaining, enjoyable listen. Paired with an entrancing lip-sync performance on the season 14 premiere of “RuPaul’s Drag Race,” audiences were treated not only to a great song but a glimmering — albeit rare — performance from Mama Ru herself.
“Blame It on the Edit” is one of the most, if not the most, endearing songs on the LP. A diss track targeted at “Drag Race” alumni who blame the show’s production for their own missteps — a phenomenon that RuPaul has expressed her own distaste for in the past — the song is both hilarious and easy to listen to. With the earwormy chorus of “Blame it on the edit/ Go on and take the credit/ B—, you the one who said it/ Oh, so you now tryin’ to regret it?,” RuPaul holds nothing back as she reads the contestants to filth, all while creating a club hit in the process.
Although impressive overall, the LP is by no means without its flaws. On the track “Pretty Pretty Gang Gang,” the lyrics feel a bit vapid and the production sounds messy, with unneeded distortion overtaking what could have been a perfectly fine instrumental. Similarly on “Smile,” the hyperpop-inspired instrumentation and the overly-autotuned vocals feel a bit insincere coming from a literal senior citizen. While such letdowns by no means ruin the record, they remove the listener from the otherwise fun atmosphere of the rest of the authentic album.
MAMARU shows audiences young and old that RuPaul is still in her prime nearly half a century into her career. Incredibly fun to listen to — with some tracks definitively worth putting on your hype playlist — the album is impressive even with its occasional blunders. Combining grade-A production and unmatched lyrical cleverness, the record is a cheery listen that is certainly worth the 30-minute time investment.