Black Butta


RuCo, Inc., 2023

REVIEW BY: Peter Piatkowski


RuPaul welcomed the new year with a new studio album—her 15th (!) in a musical career that has spanned 30 years. If that number is surprising, that would be understandable because, though RuPaul is known as a singer, her career as a reality TV pioneer is far more prominent. RuPaul’s Drag Race is now in its 15th season, and has made stars from many of its contestants (at the time of writing, fifth season victor Jinkx Monsoon is on Broadway starring in Chicago). Because of RuPaul’s multi-media ambitions, music feels increasingly beside the point.

Black Butta is the latest in RuPaul’s spotty discography. There’s a running joke that the Drag Race show has spawned some mediocre-to-terrible music from its contestants. Some of that invective should be applied to RuPaul, whose approach to music seems to be somewhat erratic if not indifferent. Since she’s largely focused on becoming the new Oprah, her music has taken on a somewhat frugal tone, much of it sounding thin and perfunctory. Unfortunately, my_heart_sings_the_harmony_web_ad_alt_250 Black Butta doesn’t do any course correcting.

Nonetheless, there are some gems found in the short set (the LP clocks in at a lean 10 tracks). The best song on Black Butta is a wonderful Prince-soundalike, “Pink Limousine.” The tune picks up some hallmark sounds of ’80s-era Prince, sounding like a sibling to his classic “Little Red Corvette.” In fact, the song is so good, it proves that RuPaul is still capable of crafting some indelible pop if all of the ingredients click.

Another high point on the record is “Courage To Love,” one of Ru’s patented inspirational, self-help pop tunes. Yes, when pontificating on Drag Race, Ru betrays a penchant for pop-psych, but on vinyl, these faithful bromides sound invigorating and uplifting when they’re set to a driving dance beat. The production is smooth and easy to dance to and recalls RuPaul’s most engaging sound.

Unfortunately, few of the rest of the songs are as good as these two. The fact that “Pink Limousine” and “Courage To Love” constitute some of Ru’s best work in a very long time makes the unevenness of the rest of the album all the more glaring. “A.S.M.R. Lover” is not a great opener; it’s not exactly a bad song, but it feels like a very generic skittering dance-pop tune. Also, the inclusion of a Christmas song, “Show Me That You Festive,” is an odd choice on an album released in January (even odder when considering the fact that Ru has released holiday albums before). The inclusion of a holiday song makes the song feel like a leftover. And that’s the problem with much of Black Butta. The sounds feel rather undernourished and some of the production feels incomplete, like the songs are demos (the bland runway tune “Star Baby” sounds especially unfinished).

Listening to Ru’s music can be frustrating, especially when one remembers classic tunes like “Supermodel (You Better Work)” or “Back To My Roots.” Music has always been a part of her career because music is such an important aspect of drag. But so much of the drag performance on Drag Race is about lip-syncing to other artists’ music, which feels emblematic of RuPaul’s own music.

Rating: C+

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© 2023 Peter Piatkowski and The Daily Vault. All rights reserved. Review or any portion may not be reproduced without written permission. Cover art is the intellectual property of RuCo, Inc., and is used for informational purposes only.