For RuPaul’s Drag Race alumna Alaska Thunderfuck, work means embracing the chaos.
It’s easy to see why — at the moment, the drag superstar is currently starring in live productions of DRAG: The Musical (a show that she co-wrote with Tomas Costanza and Ashley Gordon), recording multiple episodes per-week of her podcast Race Chaser with co-host and fellow Drag Race star Willam, and preparing for a 39-date North American tour starting in October (with mutliple dates already sold out).
“I don’t know, I have stunt doubles who just do stuff for me,” Alaska quips over a Zoom call with Billboard. “I dress them in trash bags and ratty blonde wigs, and suddenly people think that I can be in a lot of places at once.”
One project looms large on the star’s mind — Red 4 Filth, Alaska’s fourth studio album out Friday (Sept. 23), takes the drag star’s musical prowess and pushes it into new territory for her; earnest, effervescent early 2000’s-inspired pop music.
It’s a genre the star says she’s wanted to focus on for a while, considering how formative the music from stars like Britney Spears, Ace of Base and more were for her. “That’s when I learned what music is,” she says of the turn-of-the-century stylings. “That really was the first time where I had a really emotional connection to music — I don’t know, I feel like it shaped my whole life, so it’s definitely a part of me.”
Below, Alaska takes Billboard track-by-track through her new album, explaining the inspirations, stories and even fan indifference behind each of Red 4 Filth‘s 13 songs.
“Beautiful Night (4 A) Breakdown”
It’s really fun to sing — it’s a song about, like, I don’t know … having mental breakdowns all the time? Throwing tantrums, breaking down, those are things that, it turns out, I am both very good at and very enthusiastic about. It sounds like a JLo song, and it’s so good to perform live.
“All That She Wants” (Ace of Base cover)
This song invented me, period. It was one of my first-ever cassette tapes that I got when I was a little kid, and the music has since been imprinted on my DNA. It’s such a cool song, and I really loved getting to take it and make it even gayer than it already was.
Oh yeah, this is a song about pants that are way too low, shirts that are way too short, phones that are really hard to text on. It’s that time period where the internet was new and it seemed like a fun, exciting new frontier. I live!
This song is about like … the color red. [Laughs.] I mean, it is! The theme of this whole album process has been me feeling like I’m Tina Burner, truly just saying ‘Everything must be red!’ So yes, I am very into the color red right now. And the song is fun, it’s about love and excitement and attraction.”
“I really like this song, and it is the least popular song on Spotify that I have released thus far from my album. But it’s my favorite song! So I’m truly just like, ‘Whatever, f–k you guys, this is a really good song.’ I’ve been performing it everywhere I go, like, ‘I know that none of you know this song, and I don’t care because I’m proud of it.’ You have to show people!”
There were all of these huge songs from that early-2000s time period that were this very harsh, pop-punk kind of sound, and they’re all about jilted lovers. So we were like, ‘Great, let’s channel it and write one of our own.’ It resonates with people, because a lot of people say it’s their favorite song — I guess that just means that there’s a lot of s–tty exes out there? Everybody’s pissed off at somebody!
It’s a song about what would happen if we were able to unleash ourselves from the hold that technology and the internet and that whole culture has upon us. We gotta remember that people exist beyond their online profiles.
“Without Your Love”
This is full Backstreet Boys. If I sing it live, I absolutely need to wear a head microphone with silver metallic sweatpants. You will probably see that on tour — it’s like a 30-something date tour, so you’ll see it.
This one is like that weird challenge at the end of Drag Race, where they hold up a picture of the drag queen as a child, and say ‘What would you say to 2-year-old Daniel?’ Which, by the way, I just want them to hold up a photo that is a completely different child and not me, and then I just have to go with it because I don’t want to anger RuPaul. [Laughs.] Anyways, this is what I would say to my younger self: telling them to hold on, be strong, believe in yourself, and letting him know that “you’re gonna be okay, you’re gonna make it.”
“Girlz Night” feat. Stephanie’s Child
Yeah, of course it’s with a “z,” you have to have the “z.” By the grace of God, Stephanie’s Child got back together for one brief night where we went out to the club, drank champagne and acted like wasted girls out on the town, which is a tradition that goes far beyond the year 2000. They are all so good — Jan, Rosé, Lagoona, they’re all brilliant singers. Such great girls, I love them.
“I Am Her, She Is Me” feat. Ts Madison
Ts Madison is a poet, and a prophet, I believe. Her energy… I mean, she came into the studio, and we had just wanted her to do the hook on the song. She walked in and was like, “No, no, I wrote a verse, can I sing it for you?” I was blown away, she is so f–king awesome. Now, I’m one degree away from collaborating with Beyoncé … or is it two? Whatever, you get it.
“More Than Enough (2 Me)”
Yeah, it’s fully a friendship song. I feel like friendships are actually the most significant relationships there are, personally, and so this is talking about how, even if you don’t believe in yourself, your friends can see you better than you can.
“Mmm Mmm Mmm”
We’re going for a Hanson thing here — nonsensical words describing how, when you really like someone, you can’t talk or even really act normal. I mean, we’ve got “Uh” and “Mmm Mmm Mmm” on the album, fully post-verbal. I love that!