For many Drag Race queens, releasing a perfunctory, quickly-forgotten single or album is a rite of passage. In some cases, it’s a reward in itself.
Alaska Thunderfvck is one of the few who bucked the trend, pulling off a debut album that was not merely tolerable — it was fun, memorable, and genuinely unlike anything else, owing largely to her comedic sensibility and endlessly quotable personality.
The camp and comedy that are an inseparable part of the Alaska brand give a big boost to her fourth album, Red 4 Filth (★★☆☆☆).
Her stellar sense of comedic timing is on full display on the overly dramatic and winkingly funny “Beautiful (night 4 a) Breakdown,” a track that is at once an addictive and hilarious recounting of a mental health crisis.
Her deadpan laconic slurring puts a fun spin on a cover of “All That She Wants” that would make Ace of Bass proud.
As inseparable as camp and comedy are from the Alaska brand, Red 4 Filth feels like it’s trying to be a more straightforward pop record, with some mixed results.
The anthemic “wow” feels purpose-built to fill a stadium, and the collab “Girlz Night” makes good use of her fellow Drag Race alumni.
Closer “mmm mmm mmm” is a genuinely fun pop track that might be the album’s best. Empowerment anthem “I Am Her” gets a big boost from Ts Madison — so big, in fact, that Alaska ends up sounding like backing vocals on her own song.
One of the catchier tracks, “XOXOY2K,” is billed as her love letter to the turn of the 21st century, but as a take on a late ’90s pop anthem, it comes off a bit superficial.
The Aqua-esque synths are a nice touch, but are layered on so thin that it would be easy to forget it’s a tribute to the year 2000 if Alaska weren’t constantly reminding us by namedropping the era’s consumer touchstones every other bar.
There are moments when Alaska does pull it off. One of the album’s surprise standout moments is the it-gets-better ballad “22,” which delivers an unexpected moment of pathos as Alaska reassures her younger self that the bad times are temporary and that before long she will flourish.
Reflecting on a miserable high school experience is a staple in queer art, but the stripped-back quality of the song and the pleading in her voice as she sings “Hold on a little bit longer” allow it to breathe and land more effectively than it might otherwise have.
For the most part, though, tracks suffer from elements. “Red” is a serviceable pop anthem, but its voiceover feels flat and like an unneeded diversion, especially in an album that feels excessively full of voiceover breakdowns, often to its detriment.
The otherwise fun closer “mmm mmm mmm” features one of these awkward moments, in which Alaska references winning All Stars 2, a season of Drag Race that by now feels like it belongs to a different cultural era altogether.
Alaska has been out of the Drag Race spotlight for a while, but remains one of the more memorable contestants. It shouldn’t be surprising that Drag Race hangs over Red 4 Filth, when even its name calls back to a fifth-season challenge that launched a thousand memes.
The show is where she made a name for herself, after all, and it would be difficult to shake off her reality TV stardom altogether. Still, four albums in, and so far removed from her time on the reality series, the references and callbacks are beginning to seem stale.
Alaska managed to make the transition from reality star to recording artist better than most, but having set the bar high for herself, Red 4 Filth can’t help but come up short.
Alaska is a seasoned performer whose live shows are legendary, and it’s easy to see how many of the tracks could take on dynamism and dimensionality on stage. However, despite her charisma and inimitable attitude, the lightning in a bottle that made Anus work so well is largely missing on Red 4 Filth.
Red 4 Filth is available to purchase and stream on all major platforms.
Alaska’s “Red 4 Filth Tour” kicks off in Orlando on Oct. 25, and hits the Howard Theatre in Washington, D.C. on Oct. 29.
For all tour dates and tickets, click here.
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