With the hurdle of the Snatch Game now behind them, the remaining queens of RuPaul’s Drag Race season 12 have proven their determination to win, and were tasked to put that determination to the test in the April 10 episode. In the latest musical challenge, the queens were tasked with singing, dancing, acting, and paying homage to the Queen of Pop in “Madonna: The Unauthorized Rusical.”
Competitors such as theatrically trained Jan and front-runner Gigi Goode excelled in their portrayals of Madge at different points throughout her life, while Jackie Cox, Heidi N Closet, and Brita Filter struggled to infuse their performances with the same energy Madonna is known for.
Gigi Goode snatched the challenge win, while Brita and Heidi both found themselves back in the bottom two. In keeping with the episode’s subject, the queens lip-synced for their lives to Madonna’s 1983 single “Burning Up.” After her third time lip-syncing, New York City queen Brita Filter ended up sashaying away.
Madonna’s catalog contains hundreds of songs spanning nearly four decades, and “Burning Up” comes from a pivotal point in an early part of Madge’s career. In honor of last week’s episode, read up on some fun facts about the song below.
Madonna has the sole writing credit on the song.
Madonna has been proud of the fact that she has a hand in writing nearly all of her music, with her writing credits often accompanied by some of the biggest names in the music industry. On her debut album Madonna, she stands as the only credited writer on a majority of the tracks, including “Burning Up.” Her ability to write her own music and promote it herself at clubs around New York City was an early sign of the singer’s (blonde) ambition, and unsurprisingly helped skyrocket her to pop stardom not long after her debut.
It marked the first of countless shifts in sound for Madonna’s career.
As only Madonna’s second single, “Burning Up” was a crucial component in establishing what kind of artist she was going to be, and what her place in the music industry would look like. Her debut single, “Everybody.” was a post-disco dance track, but failed to make much noise beyond nightclubs. As a result, Madonna’s producer Reggie Lucas pushed her in a more pop direction for her follow-up singles, making “Burning Up” the first of countless changes Madonna would make to her sound and her image.
It was also Madge’s first of many expressions of feminist ideals through her sexuality.
Nowadays, female empowerment and sexual strength are commonplace themes in pop music, in large part thanks to Madonna’s trailblazing work dating back over three decades. The music video for “Burning Up,” directed by “Billie Jean” visionary Steve Barron, saw Madonna express something for the first time that would come to characterize many moments in her career: She’s the one in charge, and the men whom she sings about should recognize their place beneath her and count themselves lucky she’s even giving them the time of day. As she gyrated her body and writhed in the middle of the street before finally driving away on her own, Madonna made it clear from her early days in the music world that she would never answer to any man.
Another artist featured in a Drag Race lip-sync sang backing vocals on the track.
Way back in season 5 of RuPaul’s Drag Race, Alyssa Edwards and Ivy Winters faced off in a lip-sync battle to Gwen Guthrie’s 1986 single “Ain’t Nothin’ Goin’ on But the Rent.” In addition to a successful solo career, Guthrie provided backing vocals for a number of popular artists, including Aretha Franklin, Stevie Wonder, Billy Joel, and, of course, Madonna. Guthrie sang backup on “Burning Up,” and if you listen closely enough, you can hear her voice complement Madonna’s as she delivers her attitude-filled lyrics.
It’s been covered by singers from Britney Spears to Jonathan Groff.
As the Queen of Pop, Madonna has been a pioneer for artists who’ve come after to express themselves however they please. Her infamous onstage kiss with pop princess Britney Spears in 2003, for example, solidified Britney’s bad-girl image that she was crafting at the time. Years later, Spears covered “Burning Up” throughout her Femme Fatale tour, which came on the heels of actor and singer Jonathan Groff’s cover of the song for Glee’s Madonna tribute episode.