Christmas with all it's glorious pageantry lends itself perfectly to drag. So pairing it with America's premier drag superstar, RuPaul, is something like the second coming. First in October, Ru sashayed onto iTunes with a sparkling new holiday album Slay Belles (the title, of course, a clever replacement of 'sleigh bells' with slay, a slag term for 'succeeding in something amazing' and belles, the word for attractive, popular girl). And now we're on the eve of this attractive, popular girl's holiday special, "RuPaul's Drag Race: A Green Screen Christmas" (airing on LOGO on Sunday, Dec 13 at 8pm, EST), where (s)he sings selections from the album, along with duet stars Todrick Hall, Big Freedia, Michelle Visage and Siedah Garrett. I knew it was time to get some tea on this album!
So, I asked music producer Ellis Miah -- who produced and co-wrote the lion-share of Slay Belles -- to ru-veal seven slay-worthy facts about making the holiday album. Now, Miah (who's had over 17 records on various Billboard charts) has a longstanding relationship with Christmas tunes. And I must make this disclaimer: I do like telling him (albeit half-jokingly) I take full responsibility for inspiring this album! After all, he first co-produced a holiday song I wrote, "Christmas Came Early," in 2012 (and even starred in the music video as Santa!). And after our collaboration, I say he's been on a Christmas-tune-making binge ever since... that would make Santa's annual Christmas cookie binging pail by comparison! This season alone Miah has created a sleigh-full of songs, most notably Mean Girls star / openly-gay actor Danny Franzese's (under the name WhatsUpDanny) comedy rap album Christmas Wrapping. And, of course, producing and co-writing 8 of the 11 songs on Ru's Slay Belles. (The album's interludes were taken from Ru's "What's The Tee" podcasts). Thus, I was ready to have the behind-the-scenes holiday spice tea spilled and got these most delish sips!
1. "We originally planned on only recording 'Merry Christmas, Mary.'" Miah says. "But we were so excited about how it turned out we kicked around the idea of an EP, then finally an album." [Bonus fact: Slay Belles is Ru's second Christmas album! His first was 1997's Ho, Ho, Ho which was also made into a Christmas Special as part of The RuPaul Show on VH1.]
2. As the album started to crystalize, Ru knew he wanted to do duets...with a twist! Explains Miah: "Ru's vision for the album was to create 'what a dinner party on christmas would be like at his home.' The guests on the album are all people he has a close connection to and would totally Christmas with."
3. After turning-in a more polished production of "Merry Christmas, Mary," Miah says, "Ru felt it lost the charm and funk he loved in the demo. So the final version was my demo production."
4. To accommodate the tight schedule (the album was made in just 3 months), a mobile studio was used to record Big Freedia on set at World of Wonder!
5. "Toddrick Hall is tireless and a ridiculously good singer," Miah says. "He came in to write and record with us after a 12 hour day, once we wrote the song his lead vocals and background were done with in a couple of takes." [However, Miah says: " Neither Ru nor Todrick would let me name the song 'Todrick the Halls'"].
6. Song "Brand New Year" has a bridge, Miah tells, "that consists of only drums and multiple tracks of Siedah Garrett doing what she does best: FLAWLESS layers of harmony!"
7. Everyone can breath easy as Miah insists. "Absolutely no wigs were harmed in the making of this album!" [However, the tea I couldn't uncover: if there is a connection between Ru's famous 'wig water' and 'holy water.' That still remains a Christmas mystery!]