Canada’s Drag Race
Whether or not you think it’s a relevant metric of someone’s abilities as a drag performer, likability matters on Drag Race. Not the pageant kind of fake-smiley likability, but something about a queen that makes them a good TV character, the kind you want to tune in and watch week after week. I count “love to hate” as a form of likability; delicious bitchiness is also a form of it. Quirky underdogs can be likable, and so can (of course) gifted, gorgeous frontrunners. I am sure that in real life, every one of these queens possesses that spark that makes them dynamic and special onstage. Drag is still most vital as a life art form, and one’s aptitude at that doesn’t necessarily translate to them being good at Drag Race. And Drag Race is only ever good when enough queens, far enough into a season, are good at Drag Race.
So what is this season of Canada’s Drag Race for? Yes, it’s for Neutrogena wipe and Shopper’s Drug Mart product placement, and it’s for Brooke Lynn’s plastic surgeon to maintain cash flow … but after all of the eliminations so far, I worry about charisma deficit. Eve 6000 says that being in the bottom two but winning the lip sync is “almost like” a challenge win, which, sure, the same way that bagged milk is “almost like” consumer-friendly product packaging. Eve’s insecurity is already established as a plot for the fifth episode in a row.
For the mini challenge, the gals get into “sex educator quick drag” to teach Canada’s Squirrelfriend Tracy Melchior how to use a condom. A public health education-themed mini challenge is so wholesomely Canadian, even if it is ultimately sponsored by Trojan, and it gave us all an opportunity to see Gia Metric dressed as a banana making fart noises and mime-fucking Synthia from behind. Also, Kimora gives a real “The More You Know” lesson about the difference between water- and silicone-based lubes, and which is used for which hole. As Canadian PSA bunnies once said: Stay alert, stay safe!
It’s girl group challenge week, which is exciting; not world-shattering exciting, but exciting like when it’s chicken finger day in the cafeteria. Since the all-around excellence of “Sitting on a Secret” versus “Drag Up Your LIfe” in All-Stars 3, duelling girl group episodes have become my favourite episodes. The theme is country girl groups making a breakup bop called “Bye Flop,” all of which sounds super-promising. From Stompin’ Tom Connors to Shania Twain, Canadian music has a strong country streak. Drag Race music usually gives queens better material to work with than, say, Drag Race sketches, and just earlier this year a girl group challenge (bing bang bong) led to one of the most (sing sang song) iconic episodes ever (ding dang dong) thanks to “U.K. Hun.” Plus, “Bye Flop” sounds hilar.
The queens scream when they learn they will be “mentored by the incomparable Bif Naked,” and I swear they’re just making shit up at this point. Gia and Synthia won the sex education mini challenge (and 5,000 dollars worth of condoms) so they’re appointed team captains and draft their girl groups. This means the Brat Pack is split up, and they’re all spinning it in different ways. Synthia picks first and drafts Kendall, so their werkroom walkthrough talk is about how being in a girl group together is empowering. Gia’s without her girlies, so her spin is about how getting to perform without her usual trio is liberating, actually. Which is the truth? Only the results will tell. Synthia and Kendall call their group the Do-Si-Hos, and it’s rounded out by Eve and Kimora, who says “I don’t fuck with Taylor Swift” before elaborating, “I don’t sing.” Glad you finished that sentence. Things could have gotten dangerous.
The other team is the Giddy Girls, which I guess is a play on Kitty Girls, but shouldn’t it be Giddy-Up Girls? Is “Giddy” on its own country, or just adjective? She’s joined by Pythia, Adriana, and Icesis Couture, who the producers are really trying to make happen, but something’s not translating. Also, all throughout the challenge, the gworls put on Southern twang accents, which yeah, it’s country, but it’s not their country. Unless Albertans really talk like that? Stephanie Prince is no longer with us in the season to let us know.
The queens join apparently real recording artist Bif Naked to lay down their verses, starting with the Do-Si-Hos. Kimora leans into her professed inability to sing by leaning into this funny, throaty spoken word voice, while Kendall inadvertently invents a whole new time signature for her rap. Kendall Gender might be a tethered. The Giddy Girls follow, led by tone deaf but gosh darn earnest Gia. “If you break it, you gotta buy it/and my heart’s so precious it’s a diamond,” she raps. Werk slant rhyme! Meanwhile, Adriana’s verse involves English, French, and Spanish, and she’s tripping over her trilingual rap. “I overestimated my tongue,” she says poetically.
Later on the mainstage, Kimora is worried about Synthia and Kendall’s choreo, because she’s all “hits and tits” but their dance moves are all about “line and shine.” I understood what she meant in my heart if not in my head. Pythia, meanwhile, is worried that that other group is full of big personalities that will engulf their own.
On elimination day, the Very Serious Makeup Mirror Convo goes in 100 directions. Kimora speaks on how country music has its roots in Black culture. Icesis says her brother is also her drag daughter (named Savannah … brace yourselves for Canada’s Drag Race season three, I guess). Synthia reveals that her dad is gay, and he came out later in life, and that this didn’t make their relationship as easy as one would assume. I hope Ru flies in for a Tic Tac lunch in time for Synthia to speak more on this. Then, the two teams have a yeehaw-off, and it’s all very camp. Not camp-camp; summer camp.
The Giddy Girls are up first, giving us our first listen to the song “Bye Flop.” I have respect for the Drag Race vocalist who managed to do such a good Kacey Musgraves pastiche, but the lyrics themselves are all a bit too overthought, too high concept. The theme of the pre-recorded chorus and bridge lyrics is that it’s a country-pop breakup song that makes allusions to famous band breakups (Ginger leaving the Spice Girls, etc.) and famous pop flops. It’s cute in concept but draggy (as in dragging, not drag) in execution; a ten-gallon-hat on a ten-gallon hat. We would have been happy with a bing and a bang here, a ding and a dong there. We don’t need over-labored lyrics about how Madame X flopped (rude)! It’s hard to dance to! A lot of the choreo in this first girl group was just sort of the queens walking around each other or doing their own thing. Everyone in this group opts for rap, technically making this a rap-country song, and Gia’s is the best. The highlight of the number is Pythia saying “Opa!” before death dropping. Our Greek goddess.
The Do-Si-Hos are next, and when it comes to Eve 6000’s catatonically low energy … well, I don’t know what I expected. This group’s choreo is a conspiracy by big Step Clap to sell more Step Clap. It’s Macarena-level. Also, the queens are so spread out across the stage for most of this that the choruses are all in an awkward wide shot. The highlight, besides Kendall’s sexy-Woody jammies, is Synthia’s verse, because at the very least it has some singing and frankly none of these queens should be rapping. Queens opt for spoken word when they think singing will be harder, but results vary.
Category on the runway is Monochromatica, as in Monochromatic but also Chromatica, as in futuristic and spacey. It’s a weak week, with the girls mostly looking like the promo shots for a fake season. (Drag Race Soviet Union, maybe?) Highlights are Kimora, at least from the front, in a striking white gown and piercing contacts; Eve 6000 looking polished in periwinkle; and Pythia as a neon green “bioluminescent jellyfish princess.” Her voluminous outfit bounces and undulates, and her backstory for the look is “it is the future and the Earth has been engulfed in water.” Pythia continues to bring a mixture of sincerity and an art school eye to everything she does and we don’t see a version of this season where she doesn’t make it to the end. Most of the other looks are snoozy, while Icesis’s is outright ugly, taking the accent out of lamé, if you know what I mean.
The Giddy Girls are declared the winning team, while two of the Do-Si-Hos will end up in the bottom. The highlight of the episode comes when Brooke Lynn Heights praises Gia, tells her she’s safe, before basically saying (paraphrased) “lol jk i’m fucking with u u won.” Gia gives a whole-ass acceptance speech and the producers shadily back it with some Oscars play-off music. The editors are doing the best they can with the material this season, and we salute them for that. As for the bottom team, Kendall and Synthia are rightfully critiqued for basic runways, and Eve is yet again told her performance style reads like “hostage video” (okay, maybe they phrased it more nicely than that).
I implore Drag Race to put an end to the thing where just because someone’s team captain, they get put up for elimination if their group flops. This isn’t the army. This isn’t football. This is a queen who won a mini challenge for getting fucked by a humanoid banana and had to pick people out of a line-up. That’s it. Synthia gets placed in the bottom despite being the best performer in her group, because the responsibility for her whole team is being put on her. I’m bored of this narrative. It’s almost enough to make queens start throwing mini challenges on purpose, just so they don’t bear the burden of team captain-hood.
Synthia faces off against Eve to the famous real artist Bif Naked’s actual hit track, “I Love Myself Today,” and Miss Kiss serves. Synthia is a wiggly woogly dancer, but she channels the song’s punk energy with every hand gesture and facial expression … and she throws a kicky little cartwheel in there for good measure. Very punk. And her final pose? Synthia Kiss could be in a Her Smell drag cover band. Eve gives what we’ve come to expect by now, making us all the more depressed that Suki didn’t fight harder last week. Eve is sent home, and her reaction is exactly the vibe we’ve had from her all season: Downbeat, with humor poking through like a sprout in the sidewalk. “Polished presentation, messy personality. That’s me.” Brooke wraps things up with a call-and-response of her catchphrase: “Remember, stay True North Strong and what?” And the girls don’t seem to know the answer, kind of just mumbling the word “fierce.” A true bye, flop ending to the ep.
“Kendall, you better lasso that goddamn beat.” —Kimora’s country wisdom.
“Bitch, I am Shania Twain in this moment”—Pythia, or me singing along to “Up (Red Version)”
The way Synthia walked into Untucked, elbows a-swingin’ saying she won the challenge, directly after being all but told she’ll be in the bottom. Delightful. The Lemon is leaping out.