Before we begin, I think the Shade Tree has something to say about last night’s episode…
Now that’s not a really fair assessment, my dear Shade Tree. Aside from a few off color comments by judges and competitors, this was a rather fun challenge. Yes, the singing challenge has always been a moment of sheer terror on the show but this week was actually fun with some good performances and a great pair of guest judges.
But first, let us take a moment to acknowledge the breakthrough contestant of the season…
And now a prediction: I foresee the final three of All Stars Season 2 to be Bob’s Purse, Ornacia, and Little Poundcake. Make this happen producers!
Anyway, for this year’s singing challenge Ru decided to pull from her punk rock past in the band Wee Wee Pole and has the girls break into three groups to write and perform a Punk / New Wave / Synth song live on stage (after being coached by Ru’s long-time producer and songwriting partner Lucian Piane) as well as creating a look for their New Wave-influenced bands using clothes from a thrift store.
And I have to ask the obvious question: What took you so long Mr. Charles?!
It’s a known fact that punk, post-punk, synth, and new wave were all heavily influenced by (and would also influence) queer culture; not only by the artists in the scene but also the fans. This music (synth and new wave in particular) would serve as a refuge the LGBTQ community in the aftermath of the collapse of the disco. And some of these artists would be embraced by the community as icons. Think Poly Styrene, Siouxsie Sioux and her Banshees, The Runaways, Annie Lennox, Chrissie Hynde, Wendy O. Williams, The Slits, The New York Dolls, The Go-Go’s, The B-52s, Black Flag (with Ru’s good friend Henry Rollins), and more. (There’s a very important name I left off this list, but we’ll talk about them in a moment.)
Comes the dawn and the girls have to perform their songs in front of Ru, Michelle, Lucian, and the special guest judges Chris Stein and Debbie Harry from Blondie, to be followed by a neon-themed runway show. And you can tell that Ru was geeking out over Ms. Harry, which is an impressive get for the show being not only a musical legend but a queer icon. What was surprising to me was how much Mr. Stein was geeking out about being on Drag Race and being a devoted fan of the show. And both of them came through with some great critiques in the judging.
Let’s judge them, shall we? But first, to get in the mood let’s bask in this bit of iconography…
What say you, Shade Tree?
Team New York (Acid Betty, Bob The Drag Queen, Thorgy Thor) was only just okay. They took the Art Rock-influenced track and created a fun, innuendo-laden track, but lord almighty did it take a long time to get there. First there was the disagreements on direction between Bob and Thorgy on how the song should go, but that was nothing before Bob and Lucian got into it. To be fair, his critique to Bob was confusing about not trying to sound cartoony, while the track is very much in the mode of the B-52s. As for the performance, everyone delivered but Betty was at a slightly lesser octane than Bob and Thorgy. And while I loved Betty’s performance outfit, it didn’t feel of a piece in terms of silhouette to her colleagues.
As for the runway, Bob’s was simple but the paint splatter on her head was very much a direct callback to Leigh Bowery. While I do get why she did it, the exaggerated black lines Thorgy drew on herself to synch with her dress were a bit too much. And Betty’s runway was stunning. Chris Stein was dead right in calling it a “wow” moment.
Team Leftovers (Chi Chi Devane, Derrick Berry, Naysha Lopez) were a mess from the word go, which is a shame as the idea of using geometric shapes was an inspired idea for a Synth-driven song. And Chi Chi’s idea of having the costumes be full sized shapes on the body would have worked beautifully (as Betty pointed out, Klaus Nomi pretty much dressed like a triangle all the time on stage). But no one was listening to one another, and Derrick in particular wasn’t listening to Lucian’s suggestion of talk-singing the number to bring it back to more New Wave. The result was a hopeless mess with Naysha looking out of it, and Derrick thinking she’s on American Idol (even though she did look uncannily like Debbie Harry circa “Heart of Glass”). That said, Chi Chi was the only one of the three to really deliver an engaging performance in the challenge.
As for the runway, in looking at Derrick, all I could see was Courtney Act. Naysha’s look was impressive but not groundbreaking. And poor Chi Chi looked basic in comparison. Which leads me to Michelle’s critique. In the episode, it’s clear that she’s coming for Chi Chi and that she struck a nerve in Chi Chi with her poor upbringing and her looming bankruptcy. And while Michelle’s comments during the episode seemed harsh, the full version of the comments in Untucked put them into a much stronger context.
And there’s Team Best Friend’s Race (Kim Chi, Naomi Smalls, Robbie Turner) who are tasked with a punk number, and shock of shocks (given Kim’s shyness, Naomi’s stiffness, and Robbie’s prissiness) they kill it in their number. They deliver on the innuendos but also on the punk attitude that I never would have suspected from any of them. While it was clear that Robbie knows her way around a tune, the surprises were Naomi (who has better performing instincts than I thought), and in particular Kim (who knew that punk would be so good for her!).
As for the runway, I thought Naomi’s outfit was cute if expected. Robbie’s was not very good, and I think that if her performance hadn’t been as good as it was this look would have put her in the line of fire. But Kim knocks it out of the park; especially when you realize she’s basically a spin on a Cubist painting.
So Robbie deservedly won, all of Team New York is safe, and Naysha has to Lip Sync For Her Life against Chi Chi, while Derrick lives for another day. I think these reactions sum it all up…
And in a brilliant choice, the girls have to duke it out to Blondie’s “Call Me.” That said, the second Naysha kicked off her shoes, I knew she was done. While the overt gymnastics attempted by Naysha and delivered on by Chi Chi didn’t really go with the song, at least Chi Chi’s acrobatics made sense in terms of where they landed in the song; and she didn’t drop anything (shoes, lyrics, wigs, etc.). While Chi Chi deserved to stay, it is a sad farewell to Naysha.
– This season it is imperative that you watch Untucked. This week’s episode not only had Michelle’s full critique of Chi Chi but also showed tender sides of both Naysha and Betty and also Debbie Harry and Chris Stein’s visit to the Untucked Lounge.
– While Miss Harry was fantastic, Mr. Stein easily has vaulted into my short list of great guest judges. His enthusiasm was infectious and his critiques were dead on. (On Betty’s runway look – “It’s Nosferatu goes to Fiorucci.” On Chi Chi wearing her boots in both the challenge and the runway – “I watch this show all the time, and you cannot wear the same shoes for the challenge and the runway!”)
– “Welcome to She-B-G-B’s!”
– Okay, why did Ru gloss over The B-52s? It’s not like she was in their video for “Love Shack” or anything? Oh wait! (Skip to 2:05.) And while we’re on the subject, can we get Fred Schneider and Kate Pierson as guest judges?
– “Just Between Us ‘Sunday Girls,’…” *lol*
– While we can rightly come after Michelle a little bit for her comments on Chi Chi, we have to give her all the applause for her comments on Derrick; especially since she finally said what everyone has been thinking. If Chad Michaels can serve up tons of fantastic looks all throughout Season 4 and All Stars Season 1 while only going to the Cher well once, why can’t Derrick? Michelle is right: he has no personality other than Brittany.
– Ru’s look (with pants! and punk-pink streaked hair! and cliffhangers!!)…
And finally, it’s time for…
Since there’s no mini-challenge, here’s how it shakes out: 4 points for the winner, 2 for each member of the winning team, 1 for the safe girls, 0 for bottom three, -1 for “Shante! You stay!,” and -2 for “Sashay Away!”
NEXT TIME: In the words of Samantha Fox, “No more fun and games with the mind!” It’s time to separate the women from the girls. The cream from the curdled milk. The fish from the dead trout. It’s time for…wait for it…
Photo & Video Credits: Logo TV / World Of Wonder, Chad Sell, Chris Stein