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Lip Sync Herstory: 5 Things You Didn’t Know About Alex Newell’s 'Kill the Lights'

Alex Newell kill the lights
Courtesy Photo

Alex Newell and DJ Cassidy with Nile Rodgers, "Kill The Lights"

The competition on season 12 of RuPaul’s Drag Race is getting more intense as the field of queens whittles down to the last few glamazons standing. With Drag Race staple challenges like the Snatch Game and the Rusical now behind them, there’s still one more longtime RPDR hurdle that the queens had to conquer: the makeover challenge. 

On last week’s episode, six unsuspecting Drag Race superfans were paired up with the remaining competitors to create their own drag family, complete with coordinating looks and fully-beat faces. Jaida Essence Hall’s makeup and sewing skills delivered her her second challenge win in a row, while NYC queen Jackie Cox and southern belle Heidi N. Closet found themselves in the bottom two. Ultimately, RuPaul was so impressed with both queens’ performances to Alex Newell’s dance-pop hit “Kill the Lights” that he spared both Closet and Cox, leaving them to shantay another day. 

As we approach the home stretch of season 12, read up on a few things about Alex Newell and his high-energy bop “Kill the Lights” below. 

The song was originally recorded for a short-lived HBO show. 

With obvious influences from disco, “Kill the Lights” is a modern take on the upbeat music that filled dance clubs throughout the 1970s. The song was originally written to be featured in the HBO period drama Vinyl, which ran for one season in the spring of 2016 and highlighted the era when disco began to take over. As the show came to an end, “Kill the Lights” was released as a single by Newell and DJ Cassidy, and a remix by electronic producer Audien has since racked up tens of millions of listens on streaming services. 

One of music’s biggest trailblazers helped bring the song to life. 

In addition to a guest appearance from British dance-pop diva Jess Glynne, “Kill the Lights” is notable for its contributions from pioneering guitarist and producer Nile Rodgers. Throughout his lengthy career, Rodgers has created hits for the likes of Diana Ross, Sister Sledge, Madonna, Lady Gaga, and Christina Aguilera, earned three Grammy awards, been inducted into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame and the Songwriters’ Hall of Fame, and founded the beloved post-disco R&B group Chic. On “Kill the Lights,” Rodgers' presence on guitar is hard to ignore. 

Jess Glynne wasn’t included in the original version of the song. 

Days before the series premiere of Vinyl, HBO released a soundtrack album that contained much of the music from the period that the show chronicles, and subsequently released an EP for each episode. When “Kill the Lights” first made its debut in the finale of Vinyl (and on its subsequent episode EP), the song only featured Newell’s voice alongside DJ Cassidy and Nile Rodgers’ contributions. It was only after the show’s conclusion that Jess Glynne was recruited for an updated version of “Kill the Lights” that was included on the show’s second soundtrack album. 

Alex Newell identifies as gender nonconforming. 

Newell first rose to prominence as Unique Adams on Ryan Murphy’s beloved musical dramedy series Glee. Unique was the first transgender teenage character to appear on primetime television, and Newell’s casting to play her wasn’t a coincidence: Newell identifies as gender nonconforming in real life and uses he/him pronouns. Nowadays, Newell is one of the stars of the new NBC musical comedy Zoey’s Extraordinary Playlist, where he plays a lovable neighbor and DJ who just so happens to be genderfluid. 

The track became Newell’s first to top a Billboard chart. 

Since his time on Glee, Newell has released a number of dance-pop singles similar to “Kill the Lights,” as well as his debut EP POWER in 2016. To date, “Kill the Lights” is Newell’s highest-charting Billboard success: the song topped the Dance Club Songs chart in July of that year, as well as reached the top 20 of the Hot Dance/Electronic Songs chart a week prior.

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