RuPaul’s Drag Race has always been known to poke fun at some of the biggest trends in celebrity and pop culture, and last week’s episode was no different.
The eight remaining queens were challenged to create their own infomercials for different lifestyle products for the fictitious lifestyle brand Droop. Queens like Heidi N. Closet and Jackie Cox honed their natural comedy skills and excelled at selling their products, while frontrunners like Gigi Goode and Sherry Pie struggled to bring much-needed humor and character to their commercials.
After an intense deliberation with the panel (including legendary guest judge Chaka Khan), New York City theatre queen Jan Sport and Kansas City superstar Widow Von’Du found themselves in the bottom two. As a dedicated Chaka Khan fan, Widow Von’Du took the opportunity to perform one of the icon’s songs in front of her — not as an intimidating challenge, but as her time to shine in front of one of her idols.
And shine she did. Widow’s soulful take on the 1985 single “This Is My Night” blew everyone away — including Khan herself — and granted her another week in the competition, while Jan’s over-the-top performance wasn’t enough to save her from elimination.
In honor of one of the biggest divas of our lifetimes making it to the Drag Race main stage, here are a few things you might’ve not known about “This Is My Night.”
It was an initial step in Chaka’s effort at the time to establish herself as a solo pop star.
In the late ’70s and early ’80s, Chaka Khan divided her time between funk band Rufus and her own solo career; the group dissolved in 1983 after the release of their last album, which produced Khan’s Hot R&B Songs-topping signature hit “Ain’t Nobody.” I Feel For You, Khan’s first solo record after the band’s split, was released the following year, and marked her first step into the world of post-disco pop — a move not unlike the one made by Madonna at the time. “This Is My Night” served as the follow-up single to the album’s smash title track, and further helped establish Chaka Khan as a pop singer able to cross over from a soul and R&B background.
A special version of the song was used in an HBO promo campaign.
In 1985, premium TV provider HBO regularly broadcast a series of ads for the network set to a rewritten version of “This Is My Night.” The clips were the main component of HBO’s “Make the Magic Shine” campaign, and were often played before shows and movies as promotional material for the network.
Two award-winning character actors were featured in the music video.
In the years following Michael Jackson’s “Thriller” video, music videos began to take on more narrative structures as a way of telling a fully realized story. In the video for “This Is My Night,” Chaka Khan plays an understudy theater actress who finds herself in the spotlight after the star of the show is unable to perform. That star is played by Oscar-nominated actress Carol Kane, who most recently appeared as a regular cast member in Unbreakable Kimmy Schmidt; meanwhile, her partner who urges Khan to take her role is played by veteran actor Wallace Shawn, an integral part of movies like Clueless and The Princess Bride and shows like Gossip Girl and Star Trek: Deep Space Nine.
Another vocal powerhouse sampled the song in one of her own.
Two decades after the release of “This Is My Night,” another diva known for her soaring vocals paid homage to the Queen of Funk in an empowering anthem of her own. Mariah Carey ad-libs the words “this is my night” in her 2005 single “It’s Like That,” and in the music video — like Khan in her own — she’s flanked by male suitors all dreaming of whisking her away.
The musicians behind the song have worked with icons from Stevie Nicks and Queen to Aretha Franklin and Christina Aguilera.
Talent attracts talent, so it should come as no surprise that some of the music industry’s most prolific songwriters and producers wanted to work with Chaka Khan when her solo career began in earnest. David Frank and Mic Murphy — the minds behind “Don’t Disturb This Groove” ’80s synth&B hitmakers The System — were recruited to write “This Is My Night,” while Turkish producer Arif Mardin helped bring the song to life. Throughout their lengthy careers, Frank and Murphy have worked with the likes of Eric Clapton, Christina Aguilera, and Destiny’s Child, while Mardin produced music for Queen, David Bowie, and Aretha Franklin.