RuPaul Talks ‘Born Naked (Deluxe)’, His Flawless Duet With La Toya Jackson & Next Album
The renaissance of RuPaul continues with the release of Born Naked (Deluxe). The standard version became the highest-charting album of the drag legend’s career when it was released earlier this year and was roundly praised by critics for its eclectic production and fascinating assortment of collaborators. The LP even made headlines for its innovative approach to battling piracy.
As expected, the original Supermodel of the World has an ace up his sleeve for the deluxe edition. Namely, an irresistible duet with enduring pop diva La Toya Jackson called “Feel Like Dancin'”. Move over, Donna and Barbra. This is now the ultimate diva face-off! I recently caught up with Ru to find out all about that instant camp classic, as well as his plans to follow Born Naked up with a new LP early next year.
Why did you decide to release the deluxe edition now?
We were always going to do it. I’m always looking for different opportunities to market something and obviously with my brand it’s not an easy sell. When you want to make a lot of money, you have to appeal to the lowest common denominator. (Laughs). Sorry not sorry! So I have to be very, very creative in my marketing and obviously doing a deluxe album is not that creative — lots of people do it — but I wanted to do it in the context of RuPaul’s Drag Race. So the show still has a few weeks left and the standard edition has done a great job. Now it’s time to do the deluxe. And what better what to bring more attention to the album than to include the La Toya track!
Truer words were never spoken. What finally brought these titans of pop together for “Feel Like Dancin'”?
I have been friends with Toy for about 20 years. We’ve always wanted to do something together but it just never worked out. Finally it happened and it’s not a moment too soon! She’s probably the most frequented guest judges on our show and it’s only natural that we would get together and do a song.
Was the song written with La Toya in mind?
Lucian Piane and I presented her with the song and we thought it would be the perfect vehicle for the two of us because we wanted to do something fun — something that two girlfriends, when they’re about to go out dancing, would sing about. We wanted to capture that feeling of going out with your best girlfriend.
Where did you appreciate for the thinking man’s Jackson come from?
She’s always been the underdog of such a huge entertainment dynasty and I’ve always gravitated toward the underdog. Also the fact that she’s a sweetheart. She’s not a bitter person, plus she’s so beautiful. I’ve always gravitated toward that. Even when I was a kid, I always loved her. I wanted to know more about her because she was so soft spoken and we knew everything about all the other family members except for her.
So years later when she got her music career going, I was right there, front and center. And as I’ve gotten to know her over the years, I know what a lovely, sweet, kind person she is and that has always appealed to me. The same way it appealed to me with Tammy Faye Bakker, who always looked on the bright side. Do you know Tammy Faye Bakker?
Yes, she’s my YouTube obsession! What can you tell us about the “Feel Like Dancin'” remixes?
There are three different versions. There’s the Eurovision version by Matt Pop, who I absolutely love and there’s the Doot Doot version, which is kind of – we were talking about Jennifer Lopez’s “Get Right” [before the interview] – it’s got a hint of that horn thing going on in it. And of course, Jared Jones, who is no stranger to remixing La Toya’s material, did one. So we’ve got those three mixes plus the regular version done by RevoLucian.
I understand that you’re already working on your next album?
Usually for us there has been about two or three years between albums and we didn’t mean it to be that way. That’s how long it has taken. While making Born Naked we continued the process and more people became interested in doing duets with us and things like that, so we decided to continue working on this album. But it will be the next album.
Are you overwhelmed by the way people have embraced Born Naked?
They have embraced it strongly and it makes me so happy. In fact, I listen to it constantly still. On my morning hike this morning I listened to the Born Naked album. I love it. But it also has to do with our show getting a bigger audience. Our show is still an underground show. We have a loyal following around the world but nowhere near the numbers that X Factor or The Voice or American Idol has. People are discovering the television show and also discovering the music, which is really fantastic.
Do you have a favorite track?
Well, “Sissy That Walk”. Something happens sonically in my head when I hear it. There’s a throwback to ‘90s house that I just love. I never ever get tired of hearing it.
That song also makes a very powerful statement…
I think my 32 year career makes a statement and it’s always been the same — you’re born naked and the rest is drag. Which to break it down even more: don’t take yourself or life too bloody seriously! That’s really what it’s all about. Drag is all about reminding our culture to not take itself too seriously.
Drag says ‘look I’m a man, now I’m a woman, now I’m a cowboy, now I’m a sailor.’ It’s all about shape shifting. What it boils down to is this — all of us here on this planet, we are God in drag. And it’s important to remember that and be reminded of that. My entire career has been a testament to not taking yourself too seriously.
Will there be as many collaborations on the new LP?
Absolutely. It’s important in the record business today to make it more of an event and make it something that people get really excited about, so excited that they might — emphasis on might — even buy it. (Laughs). It’s exciting for me to collaborate with other people because you never know what it turns into.
Is that why you made the fabulous ‘piracy version’ of Born Naked?
That was Lucian, my collaborator and producer. He thought of doing that. We pay attention to what’s happening. We thought what a great way to not necessarily shame people into buying the record but to let them know that this is my own label and if you like what I’m doing, throw a bitch a dollar!
Younger people don’t believe that there are consequences, that there’s a cause and effect. The truth is this window of opportunity that we’ve all enjoyed with Drag Race and the openness of free love and gay marriage – in my lifetime, I’ve seen this window open and close. All this loveliness that we’ve been experiencing could stop at any moment and I do want to teach young people that the way you vote, your biggest, most powerful vote, is where you spend your money.
And most young people don’t understand that. Especially gay people who have an aversion to supporting other gay artists. They don’t mind spending $300 on a straight artist but they don’t do that for gay people and that’s very telling of the shame and the hurdle that we still have to overcome.
Here’s a sneak peak of Matt Pop’s “Feel Like Dancin'” Remix:
The deluxe edition of Born Naked is available now. Make sure Ru gets paid by downloading it from iTunes here!
Get an eyeful of even more pop music coverage, from artist interviews to exclusive performances, on Idolator’s YouTube channel.