March 23, 2023
Ithaca, NY | 50°F


Review: Drag performer debuts dark album

Being America’s latest drag queen “it girl” isn’t all sunshine and rainbows, a point that fourth-season winner of “RuPaul’s Drag Race,” Sharon Needles, uses to her advantage in her frighteningly delicious debut, “PG-13.”

Known for her spooky and unusual twist on the typically glamorous drag queen template, it is no surprise that Needles’ first-ever musical outing is filled with macabre song titles, risqué subject matter and a dark overtone that shrouds the entire compilation with an unmistakable sense of intrigue and adventure.

Album highlight “Call Me on the Ouija Board” exemplifies “PG-13’s” eccentric feel, with seductive spoken-word verses, a captivating premise and an unusual chorus that uses a recitation of the alphabet as its hook. The production values feature mainly ’80s-inspired synth lines and distorted guitar strums, features that shine in “Dead Girls Never Say No,” a sexy romp in which Needles candidly professes “I’ll be your Rosemary’s baby.” Though the production values could have benefited from more diversity in terms of genre exploration, the fact that each song is crafted with its own sense of thematic purpose makes nearly every track a success.

Lyrically, the content of “PG-13” delves into themes of sex, death and the celebration of individuality. The surprisingly poignant “I Wish I Were Amanda Lepore,” which describes the famed LGBT icon, explores superficiality and beauty with lyrics “a mannequin / she’s got it all / she’s built for men / a blowup doll.” Lepore, who features prominently on the track, echoes back, answering Needles’ call, singing, “Does she see me or 600ccs?” Part fan mail and part social dissection, the track is “PG-13’s” lyrical apex.

By the album’s end, Needles has exposed her modus operandi: Be shocking and outrageous, convention be damned. To that effect, “PG-13” is a total success, mostly because, as Needles proclaims in the song “Dressed to Kill,” “I never play by the book.”

Three and a half stars.