Adore Delano: the drag queen rocks from jailbait to lamenting size queen
by Drew Rowsome
Adore Delano's pop music career just took a turn that is hopefully a creative renaissance and not a detour. Since her last release "I Adore You" peaked at #49 on the Billboard Dance/Electronic Music charts, she returned to RuPaul's Drag Race for the second all stars edition only to withdraw in the second episode, sued her management accusing them of "gross mismanagement of income" to the tune of $3.25 million, and been dissed (a lot. but she's in good company) by Bianca Del Rio. And now released a rock n roll album, Whatever.
Promoting her second album, After Party, Delano said, It's going to be a little more serious. I've gone through a lot of shit this year – I fell in love, I got to travel the world, my dad passed away, I want to write about real shit. It's darker I think, but it's still me." That album debuted at #1 on the Billboard Dance/Electronic Music charts and garnered rave reviews before disappearing. No matter. Delano picked up a guitar and let her roots grow out.
Whatever is billed as "the heavy, guitar-drenched album she always wanted to record," but I prefer her own precise description, "cooking up a new sound for a generation in dire need of a scream." Or, the long form,
It's a 100 percent alternative rock album, inspired by all the greats before I was on American Idol. Everything that inspired me when I was a little angry kid and when I was younger, during the Bush administration, came out of me during this political climate. I just wanted the kids to have something to be fun and dance around with and be angry about. It's important to be angry and paint the town red sometimes. I feel like there's a lot of angry kids that need to have some type of stuff to get crazy with, like punch a hole in your wall. Sometimes you do need to question society, you do need to question your parents, you do need to question the media. There is a lot of things right now that are going on that you do need to question, and I hopefully put that into this music.
It's a standard pop music strategy to jump start a career by changing direction and look, most common by strapping on a guitar and declaring that one always wanted to rock. It's been done by many, some have been successful. To my knowledge, it's never been done by a drag queen and it's about damn time. Whether the move is calculated ('90s grunge is the next retro), or sincere (Delano is musically adept and rocked as convincingly as possible with the confines of American Idol), or brazen (grunge's big brother heavy metal is, on the surface, a boy's club with a pretty consistent streak of misogyny and homophobia), or ballsy (drag queen's are still the best at being politically transgressive and pushing the limits of the zeitgeist), the timing is good.
Laura Jane Grace has kicked down a lot of the doors that Rob Halford and Freddie Mercury propped partially open. Drag has gone from gay subculture to a wildly varied mainstream phenomenon, including flirtations with rock n roll. And Delano, in the fragments that her publicity has made available to the press so far, has never sounded better - the songs are stronger and so are her vocals.
The first video/single, "Negative Nancy," is generic guitar pop metal with Delano singing tough and adopting an aggressive growl. The video combines Britney Spears jailbait era costuming with gay porn's timeless locker room suggestiveness, flings her hair like the best of a hair metal singer, and climaxes with a Twisted Sister "We're Not Gonna Take It" moment. It is, if muddled, great fun. And politically aggressive with genderbenders, nerds, and other outsiders taking their turn at bat. Lyrically Delano fires off one great catchy couplet,
Daddy called me Nancy boy
Never let me play with toys
'Cause of him I'm always late
Gonna miss my hair appointment
The second video/single, "Whole 9 Yards," is even better. Delano sings the shit out of it, releases a tasty non-cliché guitar solo, and nails the androgynous appeal of those who identify as non-binary, while sending up the fetishistic treatment of women in videos while belting a size queen's lament.
I want your love, feel the hole in my heart
I want the whole 9 yards, feel the hole in my heart
I need your love, I want the whole 9 yards
Feel the hole in my heart, I want your whole 9 yards
If the rest of Whatever is this good, Adore Delano rocks.