Welcome to my recap of the eleventh episode of RuPaul’s Drag Race All Stars Season 7 – Drag Race Gives Back Variety Extravaganza, a talent show where everything is on the line since the pair of winners will get three Legendary Legend stars each!
I’ve been struggling with how to recap this episode for you for two different reasons – because of how it shook up the power rankings of the season due to its multiple-stars twist and because of the nature of “talent” on Drag Race.
After thinking about it for a while and reviewing my extended power ranking math from last week, I’ve come to realize that the only way to produce a satisfying ending was to award 3 stars to the winners.
I know that’s a radical proposal. I’ll explain more about it below. First, I want to talk about talent.
If you want, you can skip my pair of essays on stars and talent to get to how I’d rank the queens on their talents and rate their chances in the twin final Lip Sync tournaments:
- Drag Race as a Talent Show vs. Talent Shows on Drag Race
- Why the Variety Show had to award 3 stars
- Ranking the Variety Show performances
- Ranking the Queens for the finale
As a reminder, here’s where 10 weeks of Power Ranking left the queens standing headed into this episode. Note that my power rankings are not necessarily based on how they performed in each episode, but where I thought they would place based on their performances and the teaser for the next challenge:
- Jinkx Monsoon – 4 Stars from 5 Wins, 2 Block (1.4 Avg. Rank, #1 Pre-Season Rank, 4-8 wins predicted)
- Trinity The Tuck – 3 stars from 4 Wins, 1 Block (3.3 Avg. Rank, #3 Pre-Season Rank, 2-6 wins predicted)
- Jaida Essence Hall – 3 stars from 2 Wins + 1 Bonus, 1 Block (3.9 Avg. Rank, #6 Pre-Season Rank, 1-3 wins predicted)
- Monét X Change – 2 stars from 2 Wins, 1 Block (4 Avg. Rank, #4 Pre-Season Rank, 2-7 wins predicted)
- Shea Coulée – 1 star from 1 Win, 1 Block (4.4 Avg Rank, #2 Pre-Season Rank, 3-6 wins predicted)
- The Vivienne – 2 stars from 3 Wins, 1 Block (5.7 Avg. Rank ,#7 Pre-Season Rank, 0-3 wins predicted)
- Yvie Oddly – 2 stars from 1 Win + 1 Bonus, 1 Block (6.3 Avg. Rank, #8 Pre-Season Rank, 0-3 wins predicted)
- Raja – 2 stars from 2 Wins, 1 Block (7.1 Avg. Rank, #5 Pre-Season Rank, 1-3 wins predicted)
Readers, start your engines! And, may the best drag queen… win!
Reminders: I consistently refer to Drag Race artists with their drag names and with she/her pronouns even when they are not in drag, which is the convention of the show. Some performers may have different personal pronouns. Drag is inherently brave, political, and artistic, and all drag is valid. It’s also hard to do. I’m commenting on drag artistry in how it comes across on this specific television program, but the reason I’m commenting at all is because I celebrate all drag!
I truly believe that this group of All Winners is one of the most talented casts of performers in all of television right now.
I don’t just mean all of reality television. I mean all of it.
It’s like Trixie and Katya often mention when they watch clips of another competition show, like Glow Up, for their “Queens Like To Watch” review show for Netflix’s YouTube. Not only do Drag Race queens have to compete in a make-up contest, but also in fashion design, comedy, acting, improv, singing, songwriting, dancing, and branding, along with plenty of other fringe talents along the way.
We’ve watched the best of the best doing that for 10 weeks. Find me an SNL cast member who can design a dress like Trinity, an American Idol winner who can dance like Shea, or an Emmy-winning actor who can paint their face like Viv. Sure, a few might exist, but this entire cast is that level of “multiple-threat” performers.
Drag Race is a “talent show,” because you need so many talents to even get on the show, let alone make it past week one. The vast majority of people you’ve ever seen on television would never make it through two consecutive challenges on this show. Drag Race is a finishing school for being your own self-sustaining, “jack of all trades,” single-person brand because that’s what RuPaul had to be for decades before she gained widespread recognition as the icon she has always been.
The problem comes with asking these “multiple threat” queens to then commodify a single talent that isn’t already something they show off via the challenges on the show so they can perform it on a Talent Show within the Talent Show of Drag Race.
Yes, we’ve seen Trinity make a talent out of tucking, and Raja O’Hara make a talent out of designing a dress, but the way they repurposed Drag Race pre-requisites into talents is the exception – not the rule.
We’ve also seen a vein of queens who have a distinct talent that they wouldn’t normally get to show off in their act, like Raja’s traditional dance on this episode, Scarlet Envy’s bubble-blowing, or even Lady Camden’s ballet. These queens have a natural advantage in the Talent Show.
However, when the vast remaining group of queens are challenged to present a distinct talent, they tend to default to doing whatever they do in their club shows. Sometimes you get a queen like Tatianna or Willow Pill who presents something shocking, but for the majority of them the thing they do in the club is lip syncing and/or dancing.
Drag Race generally won’t pay the licensing fee for their already-famous lip sync song or dance number. Instead, the queens pay someone to produce a track for them – regardless of if they are personally a singer, rapper, or songwriter.
But, is that a talent?
Trinity The Tuck presented a country hip hop song this episode. She has released music in the past, but her singing and songwriting isn’t her primary talent the way it is for Jinkx Monsoon. It just something Trinity does to merchandise herself, because Trinity’s talent is doing the highest level of drag. That’s why she is so amazing at this damn show and why she is so successful off of it.
Trinity’s track was totally fine, but it doesn’t speak to her extreme level of talent any more than her performance in every single week prior to this one. The same is true for Jaida Essence Hall, even though she has proven repeatedly that she is a clever songwriter and able rapper. Her main talent is being one of the best drag artists in the world who also happens to rap.
That’s what makes a Talent Show on Drag Race a challenging concept and often a confounding challenge. Even if the queens all bring enjoyable acts, often those acts are going to pale in comparison to what they’re asked to do all of the other weeks of the show.
I don’t think it was the wrong move to put the Talent Show last in the order and to award extra stars for winning. It truly is one of the hardest challenges on Drag Race that asks the most of its competitors. But, we have to stop being surprised when it turns into a lip-sync-palooza to a bevy of pre-recorded tracks – because that’s the main talent that many queens don’t get to show off on Drag Race!
Last week I predicted that this episode would likely deliver a pair of stars to at least one of its winners and that it would also involve a tie-break.
Unsurprisingly, both things happened!
I know that many viewers will come away with the feeling that the entire season has been meaningless because both the winning queens received three stars, a development that bumped Jaida from her seemingly locked-in top spot.
If that describes you, I want to take a moment to convince you that this episode did what it needed to do. If we were producers, we would have realized that this was our only choice.
As a reminder, we walked into this episode with the leading queens being Jink-4, Jaida-3, and Trinity-3. Shea had 1 star, and the other four queens had 2 stars.
If the episode had awarded 1 star…
If the episode only awarded a single star for the win, Shea would have been out of contention unless one of those top three won the other star. That would have caused a 5-way tie-break between Shea and the other queens at 2 stars. Knowing who was in the top three, that would’ve also likely meant rewarding Jinkx with a sixth challenge win, which production was disinclined to do.
That would be a hot mess.
If two of the 2-star queens had won, we’d now have four queens with 3-stars and Jinkx would’ve had to kick someone out of the finale. That’s a lot different than picking one person to include.
If one 2-star queen won alongside Shea, we’d avoid a tie-break but Shea’s win would be wasted – she’d be stuck at 2-stars. That would be unsatisfying for us as viewers.
Clearly, none of that would be ideal – not only for almost-certainly excluding Shea from the finale, but for the messy tie-breaks. That would not have been satisfying television. Whether Jinkx broke the tie, Ru did, or there was a random spinning wheel, choosing between that many queens would’ve made the outcome seem too random and unfair.
If the episode had awarded 2 stars…
If the episode had awarded two star for the win, any combination of two winning queens outside of the top 3 would have caused a tie-break!
If two of the four 2-star queens won, it would catapult them both to 4-stars to be tied with Jinkx. That would force the same tie between Trinity and Jaida. Except, in this scenario, no one would have the most stars to be the tie-breaker. (In this situation the lip-sync winner could break the tie.)
If Shea and a 2-star queen won, it would’ve left us with Jinkx-4, 2-Star-Now-at-4, and a three way tie for the final two spots between Jaida, Trinity, and Shea. Again, this would create an unsatisfying “kick someone out” situation. It’s narratively much strong to choose a person to include than to choose one to exclude.
The only clean top four to be had in this format would be one of the leading three queens winning along with Shea, again giving Jinkx a commanding sixth win. That was unlikely to happen.
The real reward this episode was “the winners both make the finale”
RuPaul and the production team painted themselves into a corner with such an even distribution of wins throughout the season. Most options available to them would result in messy ties that would involve making up new by-laws on the spot.
That lead to an extremely obvious answer: just tell the two queens who win the Talent Show that they have a guaranteed spot in the finale. To make it seem competitive, say they’ll get there because they are awarded 3 stars for the win.
This neatly resolves all of the messiness from above.
Either one of the top three wins alongside another queen, giving us a clean Top 4 OR two queens from outside the top three win and there’s a Trinity vs. Jaida tie-break.
Clearly, the best TV outcome would come from having Monét or Shea decide that tie-break. Monét had an alliance with Trinity. Shea blocked Trinity from her Snatch Game Legendary Legend star, which caused her to be in this situation. So, of the five possible non-top-three winners, if Monét or Shea won they would inevitably be given the chance to decide the tie-break.
As it happens, Monét and Shea both won, and it was clear that both of them would pick Trinity for a variety of reasons: same-season sisterhood, an alliance, for her help in the workroom, because she had double the wins of Jaida, or because they thought they could beat her in the lip sync tournament.
(On the off-chance neither Monét or Shea won, then I suspect the winner of the lip sync would get to break the tie.)
There was nothing particularly unfair about what happened, unless you are The Vivienne and getting blocked from a star truly kept you out of the finale. Trinity had the most wins after Jinkx, so even if Jaida expected to be in the finale a Trinity tie-break pick would be the only rational choice.
This worked out so well that I would expect to see it again on any future points-based season. Assuming the field remains tight throughout the season, it makes perfect sense to have one or more wild card spots for the finale that rely on the penultimate episode.
#1 Monét X Change – “Vi Ravviso, O Luoghi Ameni” (from La Sonnambula) for Color of Change
Sometimes the stars align for a queen and we get to witness a moment of true drag perfection on Drag Race.
It doesn’t happen often, but you always know it when you see it. I’m talking about a sort of lightning-in-a-bottle, highly-meme-able moment that comes through sheer performance prowess. I’d put Jinkx performing “Malambo No. 1” in that category. Tatianna’s “Same Parts” and Tatianna vs. Alyssa to “Shut Up and Drive.” Yvie Oddly vs. Brooke Lynn Hytes to “Sorry Not Sorry.”
Monét X Change’s opera performance was one of those moments.
It wasn’t just the uniqueness of opera as a talent, or the surprise of Monét’s rich bass tone when we’ve mostly heard her sing in mixed voice. It was her poise, her command of the room, and the quality of her vocals.
Vi ravviso, o luoghi ameni
in cui lieti, in cui sereni
si tranquillo i di passai
della prima gioventu!
Cari luoghi, io vi trovai
ma quei di non trovo pi
[I recognize you, o pleasant places,
in which I tranquilly spent
the joyful and serene days of my first youth!
Dear places, I found you,
but I can find those days no more]
I’ve seen some folks assume that Monét’s operatic singing was pre-recorded, which might be because they aren’t used to hearing that quality of vocal with that amount of control. It turns out, those folks might actually like opera!
Monét’s breathing was obvious – not in a bad way, just in a way that would be very hard to lip sync accurately. Also, I’m no opera connoisseur, but there were a few points in her low runs that were ever so slightly imperfect. Listen to the second and final lines of the piece in her official recording – the melisma is cleaner than in her live performance.
That’s not a knock on Monét’s achievement! It took me at least a dozen listens to even distinguish those moments. I only point them out because if she had been lip syncing to her recording, those incredibly minor imperfections wouldn’t exist.
We’ve seen several queens do stand-and-deliver balladry on Drag Race talent shows before, but there was something transfixing about Monét here beyond the amazing quality of her voice. Watch how she carefully controls her body, telling the story with her eyes. Monét was deliberately playing to camera with her eyes while also filling the room with sound.
I don’t think Monét’s performance was the most impressive because it was opera. Other queens on the show have been trained in opera, but they could not have given this performance. Monét was the most impressive because she used a talent we’ve never seen on the show to create a remarkable moment of drag perfection that will be remembered by fans until this show finally reaches the end of its run.
#2 Shea Couleé – “Your Name” for The Period Poverty Project
We have seen many queens write and perform many songs on Drag Race, both in challenges and for talent shows.
Shea Coulée may be tied for first place as the best songwriter of them all, alongside Trixie Mattel.
Even though I had some critiques of Shea’s songwriting on challenges this season, there is no denying she has an uncanny knack for merging vocabulary, rhyme, rhythm, and melody. Her songs off the show have been some of the best music released by any Drag Race queen. And, they’re not just drag music – they’re pop that could slip into any playlist anywhere in the world.
“Your Name” is another of those remarkable songs. There’s something about the smooth, breathy way that Shea sings that always evokes 80s R&B, and she has amped that up here with a popping 80s-era bass and big stacks of supporting harmony.
Ooh, all of the lights are down
All that I’m thinking ’bout is how to get closer to you
Ooh, all of my guards are down
Hold me tight right now, I want to feel your body move
We ain’t got the time to waste, so let’s go
Each minute slipping by I want you more
Before the night is done I wanna know… will you take me home?
You make me go round and round
Can feel my heart pound and pound and pound
And baby I ain’t comin’ down, my feet won’t touch the ground
Shea did not sing live in the challenge – or, if she did, she was blended too low in the mix for it to be apparent. I’ve done a side-by-side with her official track, and aside from some EQ tweaks I think everything is the same, right down down the breath after her second “oo” in the first verse.
That meant that Shea had to bring something more than the song itself to the show. I think she succeeded in that. Her precise choreography was absolutely giving Janet Jackson at the height of her powers, which matched perfectly to the vibe of the song.
Even if none of the singing was live, the presentation was flawless. This felt like something you could see on a music awards show next week.
#3 Jinkx Monsoon “Sleep On Me”(?) for Black Visions Collective
Jinkx Monsoon delivered a performance that would’ve been in the top two of any other talent show we’ve seen from Drag Race.
First, there’s the scope of the track, presumably written with her songwriting partner Major Scales. It’s not just that Jinkx is one of the most-consistently over-the-top vocalists in the history of the show, but she brought a song with a big band backing that could stand up to the power of her pipes.
There’s a huge difference between belting out this kind of number to piano accompaniment compared to singing it with the full backing of a horn section and drums. It allowed Jinkx to play up all of her best lounge singer qualities, which added to the masterful charm of the presentation.
I was so young, I was naive
I was the queen who wore her heart upon her sleeve
Was once an ugly ducking, now can you believe it’s me?
Oh, it’s me, yes it’s me!
I took the judgment, I took the blows
The rest was herstory, everybody knows
Now no more sleeping beauty, no more blushing rose for me
Yes, my fear is gone and I’ve come to my senses
I’m here to snatch the crown, I’m swinging for the fences
Hey ladies, you better not sleep on me
Jinkx was obviously singing live, as given away by her breath marks, her mic tosses, and the literal swallowing of the mic at the end of the song.
While this wasn’t spectacularly high in her range or particularly full of vocal gymnastics, it had enough range and required enough belting to show off the power of Jinkx’s vocal instrument in a way that Drag Race songwriting challenges just can’t.
Lyrically, this is a “recap song” – a common device used by queens on the show to remind us of their original run and frame their story for an All-Stars season. That makes sense, since the talent show is usually the first challenge of the season. However, the songwriting here is elegant enough that it still stands up fine here on the penultimate episode. Because it’s less about what Jinkx did and more about Jinkx’s growth, it works just as well as an endcap on her dominant performance as it would an introduction.
(It sure would’ve been awkward to sing it if she hadn’t crushed the entire season, though!)
#4 Raja – Traditional Balinese Temple Dance for National Center for Trans Equality
I am always a fan of queens bringing a cultural performance to the Drag Race stage, but that often comes with an implied question: how can we judge this performance compared to other queens?
A traditional dance like this one isn’t about show-stopping splits and dips. Much like Monét’s opera performance, finding any salient critique is likely beyond the judges and most viewers.
For me, it comes down to the emotional range of the performance, rather than the aerobics. We’ve seen queens dance on the show where they were literally going through the motions – as if we were watching them tick off a series of checkboxes with their body movements.
That wasn’t what Raja delivered.
Raja gave us something that we have seldom seen from her before. The combination of stiff posture and fluid poses and the exaggerated expressions showed that Raja was doing something more than simply moving her body – she was communicating a story and sharing a tradition.
Due to the nature of the dance, I do think that Raja had difficulty to play to the camera consistently. That meant we missed out on some moments where there was no practical way for her to cheat her body out to us as the audience. However, even in losing her in a handful of moments, this was still an arresting and surprising performance.
#5 The Vivienne – “Bitch On Heels” for Trans Lifeline
I cannot emphasize enough how big of a flex it is that Viv brought a song written for her by Diane Warren to a Drag Race talent show.
If you are not a lifelong songwriting geek like I am, Diane Warren is the songwriter behind so many mid-tempo pop hits and soundtrack songs that it’s hard to believe. She wrote or co-wrote Starship’s “Nothing’s Gonna Stop Us Now,” Cher’s “If I Could Turn Back Time,” Milli Vanilli’s “Blame It on the Rain,” Ace of Base’s “Don’t Turn Around” (originally by Tina Turner!), Celine Dion’s “Because You Loved Me,” Toni Braxton’s “”Un-Break My Heart,” LeAnn Rime’s “How Do I Live,” Aerosmith’s “I Don’t Want to Miss a Thing,” and (perhaps most significantly for Drag Race) “Rhythm Of The Night” by DeBarge!
Okay, geeking done.
My point is, The Vivienne gave us pop star realness with this performance (which I’m fairly certain was lip synced, based on the blend in the mix and the precision of the echos compared with her studio version).
Unfortunately, one thing Diane Warren is not is a songwriter who works well with a time limit. If you listen to the litany of her hits I listed above, few of them get right to the point with a quick chorus. Diane Warren takes her time getting to a hook, and her choruses are entire verses unto themselves.
I’m the best you’ve ever had, the worst you’ve ever seen
Your darker nightmare or your sweetest dream
I’m a little extreme
Gotta take the sweet with the bitter
I can make you sweat, make you shiver
You never know, so don’t push your bet
You never know which me you’ll get
Get me at the right time and I’ll be so sweet
I will rock your world, I’ll knock you off your feet
When you get my love, baby, you’ll love the way it feels
But get me at the wrong time and I’m a bitch on heels
With only 60 seconds on the clock, Viv had a lengthy build-up without a huge reward. The final line of this chorus simply doesn’t resolve in a way that feels like it pays off everything that came before without hearing more of the song.
Please don’t take that as me attempting to critique Diane Warren as a songwriter! Its more that the song doesn’t work craved up into a single serving as it is here, especially without room for Viv to go up at the end of the final phrase. I actually think it is catchy as hell, and have been singing it just as much as Shea’s song.
(In her place, I would’ve produced an edit that cut right from “sweet with the bitter” to the chorus, and then repeated the chorus with variation.)
Even in a weaker talent show line-up, I’m not sure this performance could’ve captured the win without Viv singing live. In fact, I’m truly puzzled by her decision to go with a pre-recorded track (unless, perhaps, she declined to use the live vocal mix at some point after the fact).
None of that takes away from this being a terrific pop song, but I don’t think it was ever going to get Viv the final stars she needed to clinch a spot in the finale.
#6 Yvie Oddly “Yvie So Hot”(?) for National Coalition Against Domestic Violence
Yvie Oddly gets so much attention for being… well, odd, that people tend to overlook that she is a tremendous songwriter.
She excelled in both the songwriting challenges this season, and this track is yet another twisty-turning rap with tons of puns and internal rhyme. There was no chance of her performing it live, as this was all about stunts and stunting – from the gag of Yvie emerging from a box pulled onstage by her double to the final set of gymnastic tricks.
I want the crown with the property, I did it properly (that’s right)
Now that I’m set for the top I’m [steppin’ my ?] ain’t nobody stopping me
Yeah, yeah, pop out like a [?]
[?] a funk, smell like a skunk, so my best clothes stink
Never tiptoed around what heteros think
I’m ‘bound to gag them, when I steal their hearts
[? ? ?]
[? ? ?]
[?] up in Vegas, like, baby I made it,
Have these hoes I’m filling[?] it’s a trip, you can tell by the lips
I’m the only real bitch and that ain’t changing
You think you serving, uh? Because you can cater it (Oh girl?)
My style unique because I conceive it and created it
Wanna hear the punchline? Wait for it.
If they look up like it’s costin'[/cause the?] make them pay for it
My flavor is your favorite, so slurp it up and savor it
I’m color blind, a mile high, up in my neighborhood
Please don’t call me weak, I put the “able” in “disabled”
Got a call from RuPaul to come and flip the damn table
Yvie so hot
The truly notable thing about this performance was that it was Yvie’s “love letter” to herself as a performer as she continues to live with Ehlers-Danlos syndrome, a genetic disorder affecting her connective tissue. We knew Yvie’s chronic condition and the pain it could cause her from her original run on Drag Race. What hasn’t been readily apparent from Yvie’s performance on this season is how much different her experience has been due to the evolution of her condition.
I’ve edited this post to add Yvie’s own words, from a message she shared this weekend via social media [all grammar and typos left intact]:
I want to say thank you to everyone who reached out to me about this week’s episode, because in all honesty it was pretty painful to rewatch. The longer I live with Ehlers Danlos the more rapidly I can feel my body deteriorating, so to see that reflected back on screen so clearly (to me) has taken some great reconciliation with the inevitable.
When I was competing on s11 I was really just beginning to feel the effects of EDS on my body, but going back only 3 years later the struggle was every day and INTENSE. Those days are long and the time for recuperation in between is more of an idea than a reality, so by this point in the competition I was far beyond the peak of my physical capabilities/energy output.
But when they announced this week was the talent show I knew it was my last chance to try and showcase one of my favorite tricks: a full on no-hands-ass backflip! I remember landing my first one when I was 13 at “Church in Da Hood” camp, and feeling like I was a real superhero. I had that feeling again at 22, the first time I did it in heels for a performance at Drag Nation. And I was excited to share that feeling one last time at 27 (or die trying lol) on Drag Race, but unfortunately that never happened.
The last backflip I ever landed was after mustering up enough energy to go full out for rehearsal. However, the last one I ever attempted was for the first taping of my performance. I had even less energy to spare and landed on my neck/shoulder/head in front of the Ru Pa Uul, so at least I had the pleasure of giving her a heart attack 👹
I spent a lot of time feeling angry/sad/disappointed by that night, but ultimately I had to let it go because there’s so much I’m still capable of doing and being. So to anyone who ever asks how my health is doing: It’s not good, it’s not getting better, and it’s not going to…but at least I am
The point of Yvie’s performance was to document the version of who she was at the end of this All Stars season. She wasn’t happy with it due to circumstances unseen to us as viewers – both in terms of her condition and in the missed landing in her first performance.
Yvie and I both reached the same conclusion on her performance: she’s capable of doing and being so much more than being the bendy queen. As great as her gymnastics in this performance were, for me the focus was on the song, as it has been through every song performance she has delivered this season.
We shouldn’t need an explicit reminder of a queen about her debilitating chronic condition to acknowledge her humanity and treat her with kindness, even if she isn’t our favorite. I hope I’ve upheld that standard in all of my writing about this season, and that I continue to do so throughout my other Drag Race coverage.
#7 Trinity The Tuck – “Southern Hospitality” for Planned Parenthood
One thing I love about Trinity is that when it comes to a challenge as a performer, she never takes “no” for an answer.
We saw that last week with her roast, where the third time was a charm. And, despite being an avowed non-singer who gave a memorably stilted performance on “Category Is” back in Season 9, Trinity keeps making music and it keeps getting better.
This track is a solid slice of country-fried hip-hop. Yes, there’s a lot of studio trickery involved in smoothing her vocal performance, but she sounds surprisingly real and alive rather than like a robot whose delivery is locked to the beat.
A lot of drag queen music can sound both over-busy and oddly hollow, which is the mark of cheap production and low-quality digital instruments. “Southern Hospitality” is a tick above that. It sounds credibly like current pop.
I was born Southern by the grace of god
Where I learned to say “y’all” and how to sharpen my claws
Where backhanded compliments are bleach-blonde rooted
And saying “bless your heart” means “damn, you’re stupid”
Hair every Monday, nails every Tuesday
Twerkin’ in the flatbed of a pickup every Wednesday
Blurred sloppy Thursday, Friday into Saturday
And nothing cures a hangover like church on a Sunday
Gone with the wind Scarlett, Devereaux harlot
Sassin’ from Birmingham to Charleston
Big facts, where my Southern people at
If you get a MAGA hat… well, bless your heart
Come and get it, yeah, it comes so natural
You know I want it when I feel the fantasy
H to the E to the A to the T
I bring the heat straight from the country
Sweet home Alabama mixed with sweet tea
I can make your South rise, that’s a guarantee
This is an evolved version of Trinity’s “I’m from the South” schtick compared to what we’ve seen previously. On Season 9 we got her playing a dumb hick character in the Roast. This is something much more refined. It’s a version of Trinity that has learned to be proud of her southern roots and to find strength in where that culture overlaps with her queerness.
Plus, Trinity in short blonde hair and denim almost always works well, and she gave us a surprising amount of movement and dance along with her lip sync.
This was fun stuff. I’m surprised to say that I actually look forward to more music from Trinity.
#8 Jaida Essence Hall – “Look Over There”(?) for Free Black Therapy
Jaida Essence Hall delivered a quintessential “recap track,” hitting every high point of her original run, ending with a refrain of “look over there” and a reference to Jeff Goldblum’s debate moderation.
Ooh, child. I ain’t got time to be playin’ with y’all
I would like to retittle the retattle to that rebuttal
Ha, let’s go!
It’s Jaida Essence Hall and I’m coming for the win
I did it once before, time to do it once again
I’m the essence of beauty, nobody can outdo me
The quarantine queen reigning excellence supreme
I won a crown on Zoom from my living room
Get me in the ring and I’ll show you what I do
It started with some Fosse, now it’s time to add some saucy
Don’t bet against me because that price’ll be too costly
I’m the trade of the season, the reason for the meeting
I brought my own fork because a bitch stay eating
I’m a bitch for the bitches, okay okay?
What that means is that I did not come here to play
I’m going as a top, no ceiling
They can’t keep up, oh yes, they fatiguing
I said it once before, now pay close attention
That’s how mother dear will slay the competition
Look over there, won’t you just look over there
Look over there, won’t you just look over there
As recap songs go, this was a solid effort. There were more than the standard amount of references, they were all worked in more cleverly than was necessary. Once again, Jaida proved herself to be an able MC.
Except, even after all of that, I feel like Jaida has sold herself short with this track – which is obvious now that we’re hearing it at the end of the season. Yes, she’s the Zoom queen with the catchphrase, but we’ve seen her come into herself and her powers as a performer in so many ways over the course of All Stars that this recap now feels especially out of date.
Lip Sync for the Crown
#1 Monét X Change
I think there is a strong chance we see Monet take the crown next week!
Even though we’ve seen her defeated twice by Shea in lip syncs this season, they’ve both been close calls that could’ve easily gone the other way. That was especially true this week on a modern track like “Supernova.” If the two of them face off again next week, it will be a heavyweight battle.
Also, I could see Monét being much more aggressive in a finale lip sync in a way that’s closer to her Season 10 Lip Sync For Your Life style than it is her All Stars Lip Sync For Your Legacy. (I think you can see the difference between “Into You” and “Fighter” on AS4.)
And, Monét has already beaten Jinkx (in the spoken word lip sync) and has been strong against Trinity (on “Stronger” back on AS4).
Essentially, I think she has the advantage in every match-up. Also, I don’t think the show is going to be able to resist giving her another face-off against Trinity, because it’s just good television – which means there’s a chance she won’t need to face Shea again.
#2 Jinkx Monsoon
We’ve seen Jinkx lip sync five times this season, but weirdly it still feels like we still haven’t really seen her lip sync.
That’s because our existing concept of a Jinkx Monsoon lip sync is “Malambo No. 1,” one of the best Drag Race lip syncs of all time. By contrast, all of her lip sync performances this season have been forgettable. I’d say that the only one that has come close to that level of inanity was her performance to “Better in Color” by Lizzo – which had an amount of manic energy.
The question this leaves us with is: has Jinkx been holding back – consciously or unconsciously – or have we really seen the full force of Monsoon Season this entire time?
Here’s where I come down on this: I think there’s a difference between Jinkx knowing the words to a song and dancing to it versus Jinkx lip syncing as a theatrical performance.
We saw that in “Malambo” and in “The Nights the Lights Went Out in Georgia,” to differing outcomes. I don’t think we saw it in some of the other lip syncs this season, but we did in “Better In Color” because Jinkx really wanted to block Viv. Say what you want about it being a lackluster lip sync, but it was obvious Jinkx had specific bits planned for specific sections.
That’s the Jinkx we’re going to get next week. I think a Jinkx with specific plans can easily take out Trinity a third time. I think she might be able to take out Shea if it’s not a high-tempo pop track where Shea can outdance her.
However, I think that “The Night The Lights Went Down in Georgia” has showed us that not even Jinkx can outplan Monét.
#3 Shea Couleé
I think Shea has a solid shot at the crown next week on performance alone, but the storylines of the season are working against her.
I have no doubt Shea can defeat Trinity in a lip sync. She has an advantage against Jinkx, but it’ll be down to the song. I could see Jinkx slipping past Shea if it’s a weirder or campier song like “Rumor Has It” … although, we all saw Shea’s transcendent performance to “Old MacDonald,” so who knows what she could pull out!
The question with Shea is more if it is narratively satisfying for her to win the entire season. To me, it feels like her big comeback in the Talent Show to reach the finale is already the end of her narrative arc.
Lip sync performances stand on their own and there’s always the possibility that Shea continues her All Stars lip sync dominance. However, on a close lip sync it’s Ru and Ru alone who is the arbiter of success. If Shea gets Trinity or Jinkx in the first round, it’s going to be very tempting for Ru to let them have the win over Shea for narrative reasons – Trinity to get the repeat faceoff with Monét, and Jinkx because she dominated the season so hard.
That means Shea has to be hoping for two very different things in the first round next week: a high-tempo pop track against either of the white queens, or something mid-tempo and sexy against Monét where she can’t be outdanced. Either way, she will need an absolutely dominant win in the first lip sync to make it through to the final round.
#4 Trinity The Tuck
Oh, Trinity. Unfortunately, I think she has been dealt an unwinnable hand in facing off against these three particular lip syncers.
Trinity has two lip sync settings: sultry and silly. For her sultry side, see her walloping of Charlie Hides to “I Wanna Go” or her transfixing turn at “When I Think of You” against Mo Heart. For her being silly, see anything this season, or her bonkers take on “Spin Me Round” against Latrice.
I think if Trinity gets the right kind of mid-tempo pop song and gives a sultry performance, she could reasonably defeat Jinkx if she has a sillier take. And, they’ve done equally as well as each other, so a Trinity win could be narratively satisfying in either the first or second round. However, I just can’t imagine a version of events where she defeats Shea or Monét. There’s no genre of song that Trinity owns where they aren’t also good.
Lip Sync for the “She Already Had Herses” title
#1 Yvie Oddly
Even an Yvie Oddly who can’t land as many tricks as she used to is a fearsome lip sync artist who knows how to pull attention and hold focus.
She lost to The Vivienne earlier this season purely because Viv had the chance to impersonate Dolly Parton on an actual Dolly Parton song. I doubt Viv can repeat that sort of serendipitous win against Yvie unless she manages to score a Spice Girls song! Whether it’s classic soul or recent pop, I think Yvie has Viv’s number.
Things are a little more tricky with Raja. It’s easy to assume Raja will be a grandmom who is easily assassinated by Yvie, but reflect for a moment on “Superfreak” and on her unforgettable performance to “Straight Up” on Season 3. Raja can crush a song that she vibes with. If Yvie has the misfortune of drawing a song from before 1990 against Raja, I could see her losing a close battle.
That leaves the wildcard of Jaida Essence Hall. I think Jaida is a more precise lip syncer than Yvie, and she can land some tricks if the song calls for it. A Yvie/Jaida lip sync would probably be the second-closest battle of the night after Monét/Shea.
Since we’re never going to get the glory of a Monét/Yvie face-off, I hope we’re at least rewarded with her battling Jaida for the secondary crown.
#2 Jaida Essence Hall
Jaida Essence Hall is nearly impossible to outright beat in a lip sync.
Trinity managed it on “I Want Love” purely by virtue of a kneeslide into Jaida’s ass. Eureka tied her on “Good Golly Miss Molly” purely by having the stamina to keep up with her while barrel-rolling across the stage.
Basically, the only way to get close to a Jaida lip sync is to do something that can wrench everyone’s attention off of her for a few seconds.
I don’t know if Raja or The Vivienne have that ability. Again, I have the same caveat for Raja that I did on an Yvie face-off – if she pulls an older, mid-tempo song, all bets are off.
Against Yvie, things are more uncertain. I think if the song is a little more cutesy-pop, it’s more in Jaida’s wheelhouse as a performer. Yvie comes off ironic in those moments. However, if it’s hip hop or rock, I think Yvie could steal enough attention from Jaida to come out with a win.
#3 The Vivienne
The Vivienne had an impressive lip sync track record this season, powering through a Whitney song against Jinkx and delivering an uncanny Dolly Parton impression against Yvie. Her “Superfreak” was fun, but a little sloppy – and, there was no beating Raja on that one.
What does that mean for a lip sync tournament? It’s really hard to say. I think Viv is a compelling performer whose strength tends to be in embodying a performance. If we get an 80s tune, a rock song, or a song with a narrative, Viv could eek out a win against any of these queens. And, heaven help them if it happens to be Cher.
However, if we get a typical US Drag Race finale full of modern pop tracks, I have trouble seeing Viv beating two out of three of these queens. She could get through the first round if she draws Raja, but otherwise she’ll have to luck out on song choice.
I think Raja is a magical wild-card in this tournament who – under certain circumstances – could defeat any of her three potential opponents.
Raja is the one queen in this season who is guaranteed to not pull out any stunts in a lip sync. We’ll see no splits or knee-slams from her, and I think we’re far past her stripping years – so I doubt we’ll get a repeat of “Straight Up.” However, Raja will always have a certain je ne sais quoi star power to her that makes her fun to watch. Even in “Better in Color,” where she later admitted to not knowing the words, she was utterly watchable.
To paraphrase Detox, “I ain’t sayin’ she’s the best, but she ain’t the worst.”
If our drag Auntie scores a mid-tempo song, or especially if Ru lines up a series of classic 80s or 90s lip syncs, I could absolutely see her taking out Viv or Yvie in those situations. But, is our Auntie Raja transfixing enough to pull attention from The Essence of Beauty, Jaida Essence Hall? That will be a fascinating match-up, if it happens.