Friday, July 29, 2022

REVIEW: 'RuPaul's Drag Race All Stars' - The Queen of All Queens Is Crowned in 'Lip Sync LaLaPaRuza Smackdown'

Paramount+'s RuPaul's Drag Race All Stars - Episode 7.12 "Lip Sync LaLaPaRuza Smackdown"

It's a lip sync battle royale, as the crowned queens take the stage for the most epic Lip Sync LaLaPaRuza in Drag Race herstory. And in the end, one legend will be crowned Queen of All Queens.

In the season premiere, RuPaul informed the winners there wouldn't be any eliminations this season. They would get the chance to showcase everything they brought with them. They could win over fans old and new regardless of what the outcome is in the finale. And yes, that has overwhelmingly been true. This season has been one epic high because the queens got to showcase themselves in their truest forms. They each won this show and carried their drag forth to the world. It's been a celebration. Their artistry has been recognized. They are deserving of all the praise that comes their way. They each won for a reason. They each stood out on this season as well to further prove their excellence. It was a blast from start to finish. Some of the winners took the competition more seriously than others. At the end of the day though, the only tough decisions occurred in this finale. In that regard, it's entirely on RuPaul and the production team. One queen has to be declared the Queen of All Queens. Someone has to walk home with the $200,000 grand prize. However, everyone had their moments of celebration. This season gave out money left and right. It was the highest octane version of this format. That was so refreshing without having to rely on the catty drama to incite intrigue and passion. People can have different opinions about the outcome. All the queens get to compete in a lip sync smackdown. Two titles are given out. It's fascinating to see which winners from the storied franchise prevail. That decision serves as vindication for how groundbreaking the early seasons of this show were. They may not have been winning Emmys on Logo. The talent was just as endearing and marvelous then as anything that happened once that critical acclaim started to arrive around the globe.

Of course, it's also funny when the queens lament having to get into quick drag to do one last mini challenge. That further showcases how radiant Jaida looks regardless of the time she has to transform. That was clear back on Season 12. It's even more true now. Dancing to the Soul Train is mostly just an excuse to have fun in the workroom. The queens embodied that energy without needing a prompt from RuPaul. She is simply let in on the fun too. She saw Jaida being tossed around like a rag doll and wanted in on the camaraderie. RuPaul has had a profound impact on the lives of these queens. They've had so many opportunities as a result of this show. She has been inspired by the queens too. It's because of their artistry that she remains just as excited by drag as ever before. This world is one of constant innovation. A final runway walk wasn't completely necessary. It's mostly just an excuse to see how beautiful and stunning these queens are. Jaida and Raja are easily the top toots of the week. Raja's makeup skills also deserve a shoutout for what she has pulled off this season. She's known as the fashion queen. She also knows all the precise details to make the entire story work. So many of these queens utilize that skill though. They are storytellers. Finale excellence offers them the opportunity to share that. The judges once again shower praise onto them. However, it gets the most emotional when RuPaul starts talking about what they individually mean to her. They have that moment collectively as a group. And then, it happens again during the final sendoffs for those queens who walk away without the final crown. It's so absolutely life-affirming and beautiful. Sure, the emotions are immediately cut with yet another RuPaul performance. It's great whenever she especially feels herself in drag. She wanted to get up on that stage and perform too. Plus, she already had dancers waiting to go dressed up as killer clowns.

When it comes to the actual lip sync smackdowns, it's notable that the race for She Done Already Done Had Herses featured songs from the 80s while the competition for Queen of All Queens had songs from the past 15 years. The former embodies the history of drag. It's not something new that grew out of RuPaul and her willingness to play with the competition format. It has its own storied history. Those emotions are on display every time these queens perform. They connect with the material and hope it all translates perfectly to the crowd of adoring fans. That celebration has evolved and taken on a new form thanks to contemporary songs. The energy comes from a different place. It's still just as relevant as ever before. Moreover, the queen of the past can still serve it just as fiercely as any of the new queens on the scene. That respect is dignified and deserves recognition too. Now, Raja is the most deserving to be named Queen of She Done Already Done Had Herses. It's just fitting to her overall essence. Plus, she more than likely approaches the songs from a different place than Yvie, Jaida and the Vivienne do. However, the editing has to justify Raja's victory over Jaida to Deniece Williams' "Let's Hear It for the Boy." It was absolutely close but more time was spent lingering on Raja's presence. Jaida didn't lose. Raja simply moved forward. Meanwhile, the Vivienne and Yvie got their rematch. It seemed improbable Viv would win the first time. She did because it was a Dolly Parton song. Unfortunately, "Push It" by Salt-N-Pepa simply fits Yvie's energy so well. Viv still played up a routine. It was probably the most lopsided and obvious result of the night. And finally, "Sisters Are Doin' It for Themselves" by Eurythmics and Aretha Franklin is a great song for both Raja and Yvie. It doesn't exactly line up with the epic hair reveal Yvie has planned. That's iconic because it puts a new twist on a formula that has been done to death. Her various tricks are always appreciated. Raja's emotional connection to the material simply won out in the end. As such, she gets to wear her title with pride. 

Now when it comes to naming the Queen of All Queens, RuPaul does sneak in a reminder that it's determined based on the lip syncs and the performance from throughout the season. That detail is important. Jinkx has always come across as a frontrunner. She is only bad at one thing when it comes to drag. She cannot design and construct outfits. Every other aspect of this competition she crushed. She won over our hearts every single week. The only reason why anyone doubted her victory was because she isn't the best lip sync artist amongst her fellow queens. That discounts her a little bit. She's won some lip syncs this season. Her work to "Judas" by Lady Gaga against Shea is her best this season. Sure, it's awkward in comparison to the whole choreographed dance routine Shea is giving. However, Jinkx's emotions are still right. The theatricality of it all is so wonderfully over-the-top too. Her ending up in the final lip sync for the crown feels right. And yet, Monet destroyed the competition with her performances here. She and Trinity get their rematch for the first time since being crowned as co-winners. Monet clearly won the first time they did this. That history repeats itself. The editing is a little awkward - especially when Monet gets very sexually suggestive with Trinity. That serves as somewhat of an answer to the Untucked mystery of who Monet hooked up with in this cast. Monet portrayed the punk energy of P!nk's "So What" so well before that moment. Trinity's broad comedy to ensure the viewer gets the joke is still too forced despite how incredible her own set of tricks are. Monet wins though. The final lip sync is set between Jinkx and Monet. "Swish Swish" by Katy Perry and Nicki Minaj is the song. It isn't close at all. It almost gives the impression that Jinkx could have done whatever and still prevailed. That's probably too harsh. Monet was amazing with the layers she presented every step of the way. She had comedy and killer dance moves. But again, it's still important to declare Jinkx as a deserving winner. RuPaul crowns her again. The queens from Seasons 3 and 5 win amongst these former winners. They got to introduce themselves to a new generation of fans. No one really lost either. They will all have fantastic careers after this. As such, it's better to just be gracious and thankful for all the joy this season brought across 12 distinct and competitive episodes. Everyone is a Legendary Legend after all.