Todrick Hall is one of the hardest-working people in show business. The triple-threat artist often balances behemoth solo projects like his Straight Outta Oz and Forbidden visual albums with his duties as RuPaul’s Drag Race’s resident choreographer, and is now gearing up for a jam-packed Pride month.
Today, Hall is releasing Haus Party, Pt. 1, the first installment in a series of EPs he created specifically with the LGBTQ+ community in mind. Following the EP’s release, Hall will be headlining a dozen different Pride celebrations all around the country throughout the month of June, performing some of his favorite tracks from Haus Party, Pt. 1, along with some fan favorites, before embarking on a thirty-city tour later this fall.
To celebrate the release of this love letter to the LGBTQ+ community, Hall spoke with Billboard on why he wanted to create this project, why this Pride month specifically means so much to him, and what he hopes will inspire his fans who often inspire him.
What led you to create Haus Party?
Well, I love Cardi B, and in her song “Bodak Yellow” she says “dropped two mixtapes in six months, what bitch working as hard as me?” And so I said, “Oh God, if I want to work as hard as Cardi B, then I need to drop three mixtapes in six months.” So I started looking back on my work. I’m such a musical theater kid — I think that’s my safe haven — and I feel really confident and comfortable kind of hiding behind costumes or storylines. And I decided that this year I really wanted to put out music for the first time that was not directed towards any story or narrative, but just have songs that existed on their own.
I looked at back at the success of my last album and what songs were the most popular, and people really identified with the songs that I wrote for the queer community, mostly for the dancing in gay clubs. I would go to the gay clubs and party with my friends and then go home and write music at like 2 in the morning, and these would be the songs that would be inspired by those.
Tell me about the name Haus Party. Did you want to create songs that were made specifically for party settings?
I was going to a Lizzo concert and everybody was playing songs at the house, and they were talking about how they just had a house party. And I was like, “I think I should do that, because these are songs that you would want to play at a party.” The “haus” part was inspired by a fashion house or ballroom house; it just felt very just gay to me. I just think that it’s a house party for sure, but it’s specifically a house party where fabulous, fashionable people would be.
So I wanted to create music for that. I would like this to be an album that, the entire Pride month, you could play from top to bottom and you wouldn’t need to mix it with other songs. I hope that I get lots and lots of Instagram story tags where people are listening to it at their house parties, because that’s what it was created for.
But also, with the last songs, like “Dem Beats” specifically and “Low,” I had so many people performing those songs with their cheerleading squads and their dance troupes and their show choirs. The L.A. Lakers have been dancing to “Dem Beats” the whole season, which is the closest to playing basketball I’ve ever been in my entire life. I can’t believe that. It’s really fun music with really catchy lines; I’m trying to decide which one of the taglines I’m going to put on the T-shirts, because there’s just so many funny things that made me chuckle when I was writing them.
So I hope that the fans think that it’s funny because there’s parts of it that are slightly camp, and it’s highbrow in places, but in a lot of places it’s meant to be fun and for people to have fun singing along to it. A lot of gay artists don’t get their music performed by drag queens, because typically they perform songs that are performed by women — but I’m one of those exceptions where queens perform to my songs all the time at gay clubs, which is the thing that I’m the most proud of when the songs come out. Because I love drag queens.
With this June being the 50th anniversary of Stonewall, and with the current administration that we have in the White House, why was it important for you now more than ever to release a Pride-themed EP?
I think that with our current political situation that we’re in and the way the world is divided, sometimes it can just be so scary to even log on online or to say anything. I felt like it was really important this year more than ever for me to come out and put this music out. With people starting to decide who they’re going to be voting for in 2020 and with it being WorldPride in America, it just felt like the right time to do it. Oftentimes we’re an underserved market where we don’t actually get music that’s created for our community specifically; we just have to take things from pop culture and adopt them and make them be our own, which is totally fine, but I’ve made the content for a lot of other specific markets. So I’m hoping that this inspires a lot of artists to also create content for this time. I’m really excited about it.
I have a song called “I Like Boys,” where it’s a campy version of a kid coming out of the closet. For some people that’s a very scary thing … I talk to so many kids when I’m on tour — it’s my favorite part of being on tour — that I can meet a kid and they can be so shy and introverted. I’ve met people that have been like, “I want it to be take a picture with you but I can’t take the photo because I don’t want them to post it online and for my family to know that I was here because I’m not out.” And then the next year they come back with the boyfriend and they’re like, “I’m out to my friends, but not to my family yet, but I’m hoping to tell them.” Then the next year I see them when they’re out with their families and their mom is at the show as well.
For me to go through that journey with them and for my music to help them become comfortable with who they are, and really be able to live the fullest version of themselves makes it all worth it. Life is so short and it breaks my heart that anybody has to live another year, or another month, another week, another 24 hours without telling their family and the people who are closest to them who they really are.
Let’s talk some more about the music on the EP. Besides “I Like Boys” What songs do you hope will resonate with fans?
Well, my favorite one is “Nails, Hair, Hips, Heels.” That was such a random song. I was walking to get breakfast one morning and I just started writing the song. Most of the time I have a very clear narrative of where I’m going with the song, but this song came to me and it was just out the blue. And normally when I get a really random idea like that, I’d just shake it off and laugh to myself about it, but with this one, it was like really, really hauntingly catchy and I just kept singing it over and over and over again. It was difficult to say at first, but then I started being like, “I think people would actually like this song because I don’t have a beat or anything in my head and the song is still catchy.”
When I first started going through the club before I was even old enough, any time “Get Me Bodied” by Beyoncé would come on, the floor would be completely flooded with people. It was like Simba being in the stampede with the wildebeests; you could not get to the dance floor fast enough to do your version of the dance, specifically when it got to the end of the song. Gay people love that song — and it wasn’t even made specifically for us and our community, but so many of the things we popularized were there. “Snap for the kids” and “Pat your weave” and “Do your Naomi Campbell walk” were some of the things that drag queens and people who were part of the queer community had clearly taught to Beyoncé and that she had seen.
I don’t remember a song coming out since then that I’ve been that excited to see when it came on at the club, and I was like, “I want [‘Nails, Hair, Hips, Heels’] to be that song.” When it gets to the second half of the song, I want everybody to run to the dance floor and know all of the moves to do. So that’s the song I’m the most excited about, because if it does what I hope it does, it will become like an LGBTQ+ phenomenon. That’s what I’m hoping for.
You’re headlining a lot of different Pride celebrations in different cities this year. Looking back on your childhood and where you are now, how does it feel to be performing at Pride celebrations around the country?
I get choked up when I think about this. When I was growing up, I didn’t feel safe going to Pride; I was always nervous that people were going to see me or that someone I know would go and tell somebody. That was the opposite of why Pride was created, after what happened at Stonewall and what had happened with the ACT UP movement and people having to fight for so many.
I watched a documentary that Billy Porter made me watch called How to Survive a Plague. I think that every person in the world should watch it, but specifically people in the queer community, because I think sometimes we take for granted how hard people fought for us to be able to have the medication that we have and the ability to be able to live through this environment. They knew that they themselves would probably never reap the benefits of the work that they were doing, but they made that sacrifice for our generation.
There’s something about going to something that is truly filled with love and acceptance where you see all these families bringing their kids who will probably never know what it’s like to live in a world where people are hated and shamed just for being gay in the way that we did. I’m sure that homophobia will still exist, but I hope and pray and I have faith that it will not be that way for them, because they’re being raised in a world where it’s accepted. It just gives me hope. We need things to remind people of why Pride exists and how we got to this point. I’m hoping that I’m educating people on that through the things that I’m going to be doing over the month of June.
When are parts 2 and 3 of Haus Party coming, and what are you excited about for the tour?
Part 2 I think is going to come out in July at some point, and then the third one is probably going to come out at the beginning of September, because my tour happens in October and November, and I want everybody to have time to learn the songs. I always have so much to say; I feel like every single one of my songs is a child, and I don’t want to have to pick my favorite children, so this year instead of giving people 22 songs like on Straight Outta Oz or 30 songs like I did with Forbidden, I wanted to give people 7 songs so they can fall in love with all of them in their own ways and pick which ones they like, and then be excited for the next era, which is a completely different feeling, and the third one is a completely different feeling than that. So there’s something for everyone and hopefully everyone will find the songs that they love.