BY Eric Rezsnyak
It’s time for the annual girl-group episode of Drag Race UK, and for the first time since UK2’s “UK Hun,” I immediately saved the resulting song to my Spotify Liked Songs. In fact, in possibly the first time in UK history, I saved BOTH versions. The two groups took wildly different approaches to the task, but I thought both takes were entertaining for completely different reasons.
Ru opened the episode by telling the remaining 9 girls to split into two teams (one of 5, one of 4) for the girl-group challenge. Immediately the “show” girls (Cara Melle, DeDeLicious, Tomara Thomas, Michael Marouli, Vicki Vivacious) shot to one another, leaving the rest of group (Kate Butch, Banksie, Ginger Johnson, and Miss Naomi Carter) feeling very much like the leftovers. While there were some ruffled feathers on the not-picked team, it became clear very quickly that everyone ended up exactly where they needed to be. The “show” girls — who took the name Fierce Force 5 for the challenge — went for a choreo-intensive interpretation of the song, giving professional girl-group energy. The other group — all Northern queens who took the name M-52s as a reference to the highway that stretches north — took a more comedic approach that suited their strengths.
The one notable outlier in the M-52s was Naomi, who probably should have been among the showgirl queens, but who injured her knee in the previous episode’s lipsynch against Alexis St. Pete. For those keeping track at home, yes, another queen with another injury on this show. Name another duo more iconic than Drag Race UK and fucked-up knees, I swear. This show has not had a season without an injured or pulled/quit queen since SEASON 1! (Veronica and COVID in 2, Victoria and her knee in 3, Baby and her self elimination in 4). Because of Naomi’s bum knee — which really does seem to be pretty serious — the M-52s had to choreograph their number with Naomi on a big couch for most of it. It was ridiculous, but they made it work. Also, Naomi’s Couch for Season 6!
Both groups got to work with the same basic version of the same song, “Don’t Ick My Yum,” a throwback 90s club banger. I find the base song really catchy, and I thought most if not all the queens contributed great verses — I especially liked the M-52 versions, as they were a bit cheekier and smarter. Some of the girls took the theme of the song a bit too seriously, spending their time talking about things that gross them out (Ginger talked about conservative politics, Michael talked about men with bad fashion), while others used the opportunity as a more general excuse to introduce themselves to the fandom, particularly Cara, Tomara, and DeDe.
Again, I thought both groups did really well. Here are the songs so you can judge for yourself:
Fierce Force 5 (Cara Melle, Tomara Thomas, DeDeLicious, Michael Marouli, Vicki Vivacious):
The M-52s (Kate Butch, Banksie, Ginger Johnson, Miss Naomi Carter):
Some personal standouts to me: I thought Kate’s entire rap verse was hilarious, I howled at Ginger’s “5, 6, 7, shablam; I already ate and I had ham” — SO STUPID — and Noami’s line about “taking to this like a haddock to batter; roses are white but Black Lives Matter.”
On the runway, the brief was music legends, and all the girls showed up and showed out. Among the highlights, Vicki gave us a terrific Freddie Mercury, Cara gave us a regal Beyonce, Banksie gave us a smashing David Bowie, and Michael presented a hilarious patchwork version of all five Spice Girls combined into one person.
At judging, the M-52s were declared as safe, while Fierce Force 5 were the winners. In terms of the performance aspect of it, this was absolutely the correct call. M-52s did the best with what they had, but as the FF5 gals pointed out, by the end it was very meth-head visit to Rent-a-Center. (I say that lovingly.) From a lyrics perspective, I actually think M-52s did better. I thought their verses packed more wit and more fun. They weren’t preoccupied by trying to be fierce and cool, they took the piss out of it. I find that infinitely more entertaining.
While Fierce Force 5 may have been the winning team, unlike previous seasons, there would be only one winner for this challenge. And that led to a Top 2 lipsynch between Cara Melle and Tomara Thomas. I have vibed with Cara from the jump, and I do think she is the break-out star of the season so far. She just has “it.” But I fell in love with Tomara this episode. She is gorgeous, she is sexy, but she’s also a goofball. She’s like a nan who has been trapped in the body of a total slag, and I love that for her. The F2 lipsynch was solid — I did not care for the song — and ultimately Cara won, which seemed like the correct choice.
No elimination for the second time in three episodes, because again, there were two fewer queens than they expected to have in the mix. For those keeping track at home, this was clearly the episode that the excommunicated 11th queen was pulled from filming — you can tell, because we got full group shots. It’s actually a damned good thing they figured all this out before girl groups, because that would have been a disaster that even the editors’ extremely impressive Jedi editing tricks couldn’t have mitigated.
Overall I’m really enjoying this season of UK. It feels different from the previous editions, but in a good way. There’s a freshness to it, a pulse. It’s less stuffy feeling, and it feels like a much tighter race this time around. There is very little, if any, filler this season. Of the remaining girls, I’m very concerned for Naomi and this knee injury — which isn’t her fault, it’s just a shitty situation. But other than that, I think we’ve got great looks, we certainly have wit and personality, and a terrific energy. I was not expecting to enjoy this season so much, but it’s a pleasure to have UK back in fine form.
Next week: an improv challenge that apparently does not go at all well.
International “Drag Race” Round-Up
I watch all the international seasons so you don’t have to!
“Drag Race” Brasil S1: Not a great week for Brasil, and it helped me understand why I’m struggling with this franchise. The queens have a serious likability deficit. Even the queens I enjoy — Bettina, Miranda, Naza — don’t “pop” on the personality front, even if they perform decently or better. Several of the frontrunners are, in my opinion, pretty unlikable. I get the sense that a sharp edge is something that is prized in Brazilian culture. I find it largely a turnoff, and it’s a big part of why I just can’t get into Organzza — who I also think is routinely overpraised — and even Hellena, who is my pick to win this season, but who can be VERY prickly. I did not like the way several of the queens reacted to Naza winning last week’s lipsynch, nor did I care for Miranda’s shadiness toward Dallas being praised by the judges at Snatch Game, or the fact that multiple queens encouraged Dallas to just flat-out quit when she had a moment of doubt. It’s shitty behavior and it borders on bullying, which I just can’t abide. I’ll be glad when the season is over. I also completely disagreed with the winner of this episode. They judges said her self-made outfit was so modern and chic, but all I got was Dorothy Zbornak going to the Miami Symphony Orchestra Gala in 1992. And the gimmick on the runway? Gross. Meanwhile, Naza’s second look was spectacular and she was paid dust. Shannon’s second look was one of the worst garments I have seen on any Drag Race, I truly mean that. (US viewers can watch it on WoW Presents Plus)
“Drag Race” Germany S1: Another week of batshit judging on Germany. It was Snatch Game, which I think is a pretty easy challenge for the viewers to judge. We see the footage. We see the judges/guests reactions. We can generally figure out who has done well, and who hasn’t. Maybe it’s because nobody else was extremely good, but I thought the Top 2 of the week were pretty dreadful — and I like both of those queens. Pandora Noxx gave us Arnold Schwarzenegger — a great Snatch Game pick in theory — and the interpretation was, “Arnold is stupid and rambles on with his answers.” Again, I watched this, and I don’t recall anyone laughing at any of the meandering “Arnold” answers; in fact I recall a few cutaways to queens saying, “Jesus, just answer the question.” I was certain Pandora was in the bottom. Kelly Heelton wore the worst bald-cap application I have ever seen on Drag Race, along with some VERY dusty make-up. Clearly Kelly was doing well in the actual banter bit of Snatch Game, which IS critically important. But that look was awful. In the final seconds of Snatch Game, Kelly ripped off the bald cap and transformed into Heidi Klum — except nothing about her mannerisms was Heidi Klum AT ALL. It was pure cringe. And yet Kelly ended up winning the episode, Pandora placed high. OK then. Meanwhile, the bottom queens of the week — Victoria Shakespears as Ines Brasil — the second time in two weeks this person has been on Snatch Game, like what the fuck? — was just bouncing tits and blowjobs, and Nikita Vegas flopped as some German reality TV star. In a shocking lipsynch, Victoria jumped off the stage, stripped down, and crawled all over the judges table. It was wild to see, and the judges were losing it, but Nikita correctly pointed out the issue: this is a lipsynch, not a strip club, and she completely stole the focus away from Nikita. It was not a fair fight. There’s a reason we have never seen that before and I hope we never see it again — there should be a rule prohibiting that in lipsynchs. Unfortunately, Nikita wasn’t doing great anyway, and she was eliminated. Really fun food-based runway, though. (US viewers can watch it on WoW Presents Plus)
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