For a drag queen with as much soul as Latrice Royale, a Jazz album makes perfect sense. While she released a few requisite electronic singles earlier, including The Chop with Manila Luzon and Weight as a solo release, the more mature jazz route she’s taken this time ends up being much more complementary for the queen with the biggest heart on season 4 of RuPaul’s Drag Race. Here’s to Life is a big surprise and an enthralling listen from a truly talented queen.
Here’s to Life features a fairly even mixture of upbeat tracks and sombre ballads, showcasing a variety of emotions and attitudes, and keeps the instrumentation simple with double bass, piano and percussion; there’s a distinct lack of brass, but the album manages to feel lush and complete even without what is usually considered a staple of jazz music. While she isn’t afraid to sing, she takes the opportunity to show off her attitude in If I Can’t Sell It I’ll Keep Sittin’ On It, where she talks about the defining features of a chair, used as an intriguing device to talk about the highlights of her own body. While this suits the style of the song, she holds her own against the music when she sings properly, whether on the upbeat When You’re Good to Mama or the slower mood setting introductory track Summertime.
The album’s title track, however, is the clear showstopper here. Here’s to Life features the best of the album’s arrangements, focusing mostly on the piano as the bass and percussion serve as pure back-up; it gives the song a much more acoustic feel that serves well for the album’s closing track, with the swells of percussion highlighting the most important sections as they come. Latrice’s own vocals are at their peak here as well, as she sings the most heartfelt and sincere lyrics the album has to offer, tying the entire package together. While the preceding songs were all strong in their own right, this is the album’s defining track. Admittedly, it is a rather short-lived affair; with only six tracks in total, it’s over within less than a half hour, leaving it more as a mini-album than anything else.
Fortunately enough, however, the short length is the worst issue the album faces. With each track packed with its own unique attitude on top of a pinch of Royale soul, they cover every facet of her personal character and her own skills perfectly. No single track ever overstays its welcome, even as the title track begins to extend past five minutes, and while more tracks would have been welcomed there’s more than enough to keep you satisfied. As Latrice Royale’s first full length album, Here’s to Life does an amazing job at setting up whatever could potentially follow in its footsteps.