If you can believe it, RuPaul, the Legendary Supermodel of the World turned reality TV juggernaut, has released 11 (!) studio albums over the past 25 years. Her first, released in 1993, helped take Ru from the clubs to the top of the charts with the iconic single “Supermodel (You Better Work),” a song that’s become a staple of almost every gay bar, and was even featured on the Spice Girls’ 2007 comeback tour (Posh Spice walked down a catwalk to it).
Since then, of course, many of Ru’s albums have become tied toDrag Race. Songs from the records are often interpolated into the show, with the competing queens strutting down the runway to tracks like “Glamazon” and the always gag-worthy “Sissy That Walk.”
A 25-year music career is no small feat, but how do Ru’s earlier records stand up to new favorites likeChampionandBorn Naked? In an attempt to find out exactly which is RuPaul’s greatest album, we’ve delved into the drag queen’s discography and ranked them from worst to best.
N.B. For the sake of consistency, this list does not include remix albums, greatest hits, or movie soundtracks.
11. Ho Ho Ho (1997)
, a holiday album is a hard sell, especially one that’s dripping in comedy. Ho Ho Ho might feature songs like “RuPaul the Red-Nosed Reindeer” and “Santa Baby,” but the album’s come-ons get tired after a few songs. There’s also the issue with the production, which sounds like something from a school Casio keyboard. Ru might not have aged a day, but Ho Ho Ho is like a bad festive acid trip from the ‘90s.
10. Slay Belles (2015)
The songs on Slay Belles are just not good. Only the disco-tastic “Merry Christmas, Mary” is worth adding to any holiday playlists that you might roll out as soon as Thanksgiving is over. The worst part is that Slay Belles seems to be intercut with segments from a festive edition of RuPaul and Michelle Visage’s podcast, What’s The Tee.
9. Red Hot (2004)
Red Hot might have the affirmative anthem “Looking Good, Feeling Gorgeous,” and there are some bizarrely catchy R moments like “Are You Man Enough?” that could be lifted from a Kelly Rowland solo album, but the strange melding of faux-Timbaland and Darkchild beats doesn’t really suit RuPaul. The two-step “The Price of One” is a surprisingly forward-thinking dance track, but towards the end of the album syrupy melodies, saccharine lyrics, and faceless production make the closing hard work to get through.
8. Foxy Lady (1996)
RuPaul’s second album, Foxy Lady, feels like any difficult sophomore effort. While she’d climbed the dance charts with her debut, Foxy Lady lacks some of the fun and irreverence of its older sister. Songs like “Falling” and “Snapshot” arenot good. Elsewhere, though, album opener “Happy,” “Snatched for the Gods,” and “A Little Bit of Love” are celebratory dance-pop anthems with house-y pianos and affirming lyrics, a signature of Mama Ru. The problem, perhaps, is that it feels that Foxy Lady takes itself a bit too seriously, and because of that it’s just not that fun. Kitty girl can do better.
7. Butch Queen (2016)
When RuPaul’s Drag Race started in 2009, Ru started tying her album releases to the seasons of the show. Of the seven albums released over the last eight years, Butch Queen is perhaps the weakest. Rather than focus on songs, the album feels more designed for DJs, with tracks like “Feel Like a Woman” essentially just catchphrases atop house beats. Guest spots by T.S. Madison and Taylor Dayne break up some of the monotony, but the album’s shining diamante is clacking dance-pop stable “U Wear it Well.” If you’re looking for feminine eleganza, Butch Queen isn’t the album for you.
6. Champion (2009)
The first album that RuPaul released to coincide with Drag Race, Champion has flashes of brilliance. The inescapable RuPaul staple “Cover Girl” is still as effervescent and thrilling as always, and you can understand why the song is still used for Mama Ru’s entrance on the show. Unfortunately, there’s not too much else to love about the album. Like Butch Queen, it’d firmly be asked to lip-sync for its life, and, based on problematic songs like “Tr**nychaser” and “Lady Boy,” it would probably end up being sent home.
5. Glamazon (2011)
Any album that opens with a stone-cold banger like “The Beginning,” a dance-pop song that has hooks for days and makes you immediately want to get up in drag and twirl on the dance floor, is an album that we can get behind. Sure, there’s the cheesy synth strings and the horn sections, but “The Beginning” is a RuPaul classic for a reason: it fucking bangs! Likewise, “Glamazon” is a fuzzy and fizzing delight, designed to get a march of gays strutting down, well, anything. The reason Glamazon doesn’t rank higher is because its other tracks are forgettable filler, the production becoming the musical equivalent of just another bedazzled-bodysuit.
4. American (2017)
There are so many reasons to get your life while listening to RuPaul’s latest album American. The rhymes of “Call Me Mother” could rival Nicki Minaj’s verse on “Monster,” while “Kitty Girl” is truly sickening; like cats, drag queens have nine lives, and Ru is making the most of hers. “American” is probably one of RuPaul’s most accomplished and well-produced songs, the chorus a stabbing retort to who and what constitutes a real American. There’s a good song struggling to break out of “Hey Doll,” but unfortunately it never quite achieves 10s across the board, and the less said about “It Ain’t Over,” the better. Creatively, though, American pushes expectations, and songs like “Broke Me Down” and “Might Love” are true femmebot pieces of forward-thinking dance-pop.
3. Born Naked (2014)
There is just so much to love about Born Naked. RuPaul’s albums excel when dance music meets humor and when there are hooks. Album opener “Freaky Money” is repetitive until near annoyance, but then Big Freedia jumps in and everything is saved. Then comes “Sissy That Walk.” What makes “Sissy That Walk” so fabulous is its second chorus. After the pre-chorus, the song intensifies before stabbing synths crash down. It’s a gag-worthy (death) drop that not even Laganja could pull off. Segueing into “Geronimo” and we’re back with Ru delivering some searing rhymes even the clunky reference to Game of Thrones works because Ru delivers it with such conviction. The rest of Born Naked, however, is pretty standard club fare (although Frankmusik collab “Fly Tonight” is pretty fun), but the bizarrely 80s sounding “Born Naked,” a driving song if there ever was one, is like a thrilling wig reveal. Roxxxy Andrews could never.
2. Realness (2015)
Dance music has always been central to RuPaul’s discography, as it has to her career as a whole. But on Realness, the two converge with such a force that not only is it a good RuPaul album it’s just a great dance record. Where Butch Queen used cheesy catchphrases to help sell its monotonic dance beats, Realness utilizes snippets of vocals that are chopped up, giving the songs some discernible hooks. Not all songs the songs are brilliant, but there’s so much throbbing and pulsating going on that you forget the cheesy lyrics in the joyous Lady Bunny-assisted “Throw Ya Hands Up,” while album opener “L.A. Rhythm,” featuring our queen Michelle Visage, is a slice of exquisite club music. Meanwhile, Frankmusik makes another appearance on the album with “Die Tomorrow,” a hedonistic but profound devotion to going out dancing. The album’s most thrilling moment, however, is “The Realness.” The stabbing house pianos are evocative of the ‘90s, while the recurring chorus is a serious earworm, niggling into your self-conscious until you’ve played the song three times in a row and not even realized it. Put plainly, it’s fucking amazing. RuPaul really stepped her pussy up on this one, honey.
1. Supermodel of the World (1993)
Released 25 years ago, RuPaul’s debut album is one of those surprising gems that, like the Spice Girls’ debut, has stood the test of time. The production is clear and the album’s MO of ‘90s house and R is precise and sharp like the fiercest of contours. The songs on Supermodelare expertly crafted, with funky bass and ‘70s nostalgia shimmering on tracks like “House of Love,” “Miss Lady DJ,” and “Thinkin’ ‘Bout You.” Even low key moments like “Prisoner of Love” avoid the saccharine affirmations of Ru’s later albums, instead showcasing what a good singer she is. The humor, too, is self-aware and doesn’t push itself too far or play up to any expectations, with the brilliant “A Shade Shady (Now Prance)” spewing a drag queen’s mantra: “Don’t be throwin no shade. I just wanna get paid!” Then, of course, there’s “Supermodel (You Better Work)” with its oscillating synths and irresistible attitudinal chorus. Aside from being more fabulous than a Swarovski crystal gown, it’s genuinely a magnificent and masterly dance-pop song that proves that RuPaul is more than just a pretty face beat for the gods. Mama Ru really got to work with this one. Sashay shantay hunty.