‘Canada’s Drag Race’ Season 4 finale recap: Single ladies

The top four queens debut new singles, and one is crowned Canada’s Next Drag Superstar

We have come to the end of Canada’s Drag Race Season 4—and what a season it’s been! Over these past two months, we’ve seen some of the best lip syncing ever on the Canadian series, the best Mini-Untucked drama since Season 1, and some truly stunning fashion on the runway. And, of course, we had our friend the Golden Beaver joining us on the journey to just turn the heat up ever so much on this talented cast of queens.

But after all that, it’s remarkable how low-key this season finale is. The queens who made for the splashiest drama are mostly gone, Nearah Nuff having sent most of them home. All four finalists are members of the Love Bugs girl group alliance, with their strategic defence of each other (particularly Nearah keeping Denim out of the bottom during the lip sync smackdown) paying off big. And while they haven’t thoroughly flattened the competition in a way we’ve seen in other seasons, Aurora Matrix (with two wins and one bottom placement) and Venus (with one win and no bottom placements) are sitting quite pretty going into the final maxi-challenge.

As a result of the camaraderie and general competence, however, this final episode is an understated affair. The queens make their cases for the win, both in group conversations and in confessionals, and we get the typical rounds of sharing first impressions and emotional runway speeches. After such an innovative season, it’s somewhat surprising to see the show rely so heavily on the expected finale tropes in the end.

That said, the finale does bring us one final innovation: instead of performing on a remix, the queens are responsible for writing their own full singles, all set to the same track. This gives the contestants a lot more space to express themselves; it’s a relief to see them given more to do, instead of the increasingly shrinking amount of time they’re given for verses on Rumixes. However, it’s also a substantially harder challenge, as the queens have to think more about the structure of a song. How do you create a hook? How can you best use your voice over a whole track? The queens who understand that this is a full song, not just a long verse, are the ones who really thrive—and they become our expected, but deserving, top two of the season.

Canada’s Drag Race Season 3 champion Gisèle Lullaby drops by to chat with the queens and participate in a photo shoot with them Credit: Courtesy Bell Media

The guest judge and vocal coach this week is none other than Nelly Furtado, and the queens properly lose their shit about this. (All it takes for Venus to start going berserk is Traci Melchor teasing it by saying, “I suggest you get ‘Loose’ and ‘Say It Right’ …”) It’s a pretty huge deal to get Nelly not just as a judge, but actively helping the queens craft their singles. And it pays off big: Nelly’s suggestions about Aurora’s chorus wind up making it the best hook of the night, while she helps Venus relax her delivery well. What she does with Denim is actually close to miraculous, taking someone fully missing the rhythm and getting them on beat.

 

In fact, it’s ultimately Nearah’s demise when she doesn’t take Nelly’s notes, keeping her single unbelievably wordy to the point of being forgettable. “This is Grammy Award-winning Nelly Furtado!” Aurora says of Nearah in a confessional. “Take the notes, ‘yes, and,’ and move on!” But of course, this has been a theme with Nearah this season, as we saw in the Rusical when she pushed back against the idea that she needed to take risks. Ultimately, I do believe you get out of Drag Race what you put in, and that does sometimes mean playing ball with the notes you’re given. And in this case, more to the point, Nelly’s notes could’ve really helped Nearah out.

The other major guest in this episode is Canada’s Drag Race Season 3 champion Gisèle Lullaby, who drops by for the now-traditional chat and photo shoot with the reigning winner. The conversations are mostly just okay; it’s hard for Gisèle to follow up both Priyanka and Icesis Couture, who had engaging, motivational chats with their batches of finalists. Gisèle, by contrast, seems mostly to be following a scripted set of questions, and as a result the chats feel perfunctory. The photo shoots are much better, taking place on the bow of a ship and inspiring a lot of Titanic jokes.

After a choreography session and one last round of mirror moments, it’s time to hear the singles! Aurora’s “Asian Sensation” is up first, and she’s got the best hook of the lot. It’s hard to make boastful lines feel original these days, but her singing “Makeup stamped, serving glam / I look good with a hundred grand” is one of the best we’ve heard in seasons. And the hollaback chorus of “Top!” and “Hot!” immediately engages the judges. I feel for Denim having to follow her, because “The Trantasy” lacks the structure and flow of Aurora’s song. Nelly got the track to a better place, but it’s still leagues behind where the top two queens land.

Nelly Furtado’s advice proves incredibly beneficial to the queens—at least, the ones who take it Credit: Courtesy Bell Media

Not much more needs to be said for Nearah’s “Stampede Drag Queen” as a track, but she really does kill the choreography. If anything, I actually think the choreography holds her back, as she has to restrain her bigger moves a bit by performing alongside two backup dancers. She’s followed by Venus’ “K.U.N.T. Manifesto,” a reference to her former drag name, “Venus Kunt.” Other than Aurora, Venus has the most distinctive lyrics, and her hook involves shouting her own name—always good from a branding perspective. Moreover, the whole song feels like an encapsulation of her journey and her identity. Love the “Métis/mighty” play on words in particular.

The top four then walk the runway in Coronation Eleganza, and they all look gorgeous. Denim’s wig is a masterpiece, and I love the bit where she takes off her “giant bimbo titties,” as she describes them, and uses them as a bag. Venus’ look and hair are elegant as all get-out, and while I wish as ever that she were in a more distinct mug, there’s something so fresh-faced about this final look that I can excuse it. Nearah goes for a more traditional final gown in a royal blue, and while she looks good, I do think she’s looked better at other points this season.

Finally, Aurora emerges, and this is a goddamn smash. Back in her Meet the Queens, Aurora talked about infusing her drag with her culture, and it comes through more than ever here. This is a declarative statement of who Aurora is as a drag artist, and it’s my favourite moment from her all season long. Talk about ending on a high!

After speeches, critiques and deliberations, the judges make a decision that has felt obvious for some time: Aurora and Venus are our top two of the season. The queens face off to Nelly Furtado’s “Try,” and for a ballad with queens in gowns, it’s one hell of a lip sync. Aurora goes for a passionate approach, while Venus finally, fully implements the notes she got from Brooke Lynn Hytes about how to more subtly, but still emotionally, interpret a ballad. It’s a real evolution from Venus as a lip syncer, and if the final performance matters, I think it puts her over the top for the win.

Aurora Matrix’s final runway look is a jaw-dropper, and one of the best looks of the season Credit: Courtesy Bell Media

In the end, Venus indeed wins out, and she is Canada’s Next Drag Superstar! I’ve been pulling for this result all season long, and I’m so happy to see her bookend the season with victories. Not only has Venus been a force in the competition, never placing below safe all season long (first to do so on CDR since Scarlett BoBo in Season 1), but she’s also been the main character of the show in many ways. She’s gotten involved with major storylines, proved herself a fantastic narrator in the confessional chair, and opened up at several turns about her insecurities, her past experiences and her Métis identity. In winning, she becomes Canada’s Drag Race’s first Indigenous winner, further diversifying an incredibly varied winners’ circle. She should be tremendously proud—and I know her drag mother, Kendall Gender, is mighty proud as well.

I don’t think I’ll surprise anyone by calling this the best season of Canada’s Drag Race. While I’ll always have a special place in my heart for Season 2, even I can admit that Icesis Couture’s coronation season was a bit too light on drama and narrative. This season delivered those in spades, along with some genuinely great twists (long live the Golden Beaver!) and one of the best casts we’ve seen in recent Drag Race memory. UK Season 5 was probably a bit better as a competition, but as a TV show, Canada’s Drag Race Season 4 was effectively unmatched among last year’s seasons that we covered here. (Although I am still dying to check out France Season 2.)

That said, with the understanding that there’s always room to grow: I think Season 5 (not to mention Canada vs. The World Season 2) will likely need a little help in the pacing department. After the double elimination in the lip sync smackdown, CDR Season 4 took a leisurely stroll to the finish line, with the loss of the Golden Beaver taking a lot of tension out of the season. I would recommend keeping the Beaver around until the finale next time: while it can feel a bit imbalanced in the later weeks, I would rather keep the show feeling dynamic up until the end than have the show revert to garden variety Drag Race.

But that’s really my only major complaint. Overall, Canada’s Drag Race Season 4 proved to be a triumph, and one that was nothing but delightful to watch for all nine weeks. If nothing else, the season demonstrated just what bringing a spirit of inventiveness and curiosity can do to Drag Race over a decade and a half into its existence. The format isn’t dead—it just needs the right producers and the right queens to show just how great it can be once again.

Untucking our final thoughts

As is tradition in our Canada’s Drag Race finale recaps, let’s talk about the judges. This felt like a bit of a return-to-form season for Brad Goreski. For one, I admired his willingness to take so much good-natured ribbing about The Real Friends of WeHo. But more significantly, he seemed to really have fun this go-around. Then in this finale, when he connected with Venus over their previous attempts to take their own lives, I was reminded of his tearful moment with Venus’ drag mother, Kendall Gender, over their sobriety in the Season 2 finale. It’s that balance of having a good time and genuinely forming bonds with the queens that makes him a great judge. I hope we can see him open up even more in the coming seasons.

Traci Melchor, meanwhile, remains capable and interesting as a judge, but the show really needs to move away from having her helm segments. I understand she’s an experienced TV interviewer and host, but her entertainment news-friendly cadence while reading scripted lines comes off as inauthentic. And I don’t find Traci inauthentic otherwise! It’s just a bad fit of role and player, and I think future seasons should shift to having Brooke Lynn Hytes take charge of the hosting bits.

Speaking of the self-proclaimed Queen of the North: I have nothing but praise for Brooke Lynn’s performance this season. Her judging skills have really improved, and her genuine connection and care for the queens came through more than ever. And can we talk about the fashion? Brooke Lynn’s Season 4 package may be my single favourite collection of looks from a host that I’ve ever seen on Drag Race. More and more, Brooke Lynn has evolved dramatically since she first took on this gig, and I’m ready to see her be even more central to Canada’s Drag Race’s identity moving forward.

We once again get The X Factor-style intros for the final four, similar to how Drag Race UK does them. I’m not the biggest fan of these, honestly—I think my ideal recap of the season would be a bit more about the whole run than just our finalists. The fact that not once in this finale does anyone, either the show or a queen, talk about Melinda Verga’s iconic breakdown? Doesn’t feel like a great summary of the season, honestly.

Hollywood Jade returns to help the queens with their choreography for the final number, and it seems like he does a genuinely great job catering steps for each of them. (That said, I feel for Nearah having to deal with backup dancers—they kinda cramp her flow in a way that makes me believe she’d have been better off dancing solo.) Hollywood Jade’s really come into his own as CDR’s resident choreographer, and I hope he continues to return every season.

The eliminated queens return! I love when they come back for the finale. Kiki Coe wins best-in-show for her Coronation Eleganza runway, while Sisi Superstar makes her best impression yet in her final look. We also get my favourite CDR finale tradition, in which one queen pays tribute to one finalist. Sisi does Denim’s, Luna DuBois does Aurora’s, The Girlfriend Experience does Venus’, and Melinda does Nearah’s. They’re all lovely, and they continue to be a highlight of the final episode for me.

Kiki brings out the Golden Beaver (“I brought my best friend!”), and they make one final toast to it. Like I said above, I really would keep the Golden Beaver around for longer in Season 5. It’s the series’ signature twist now—not to mention that the judging got quite a bit wonkier when it was no longer around.

Listen, “Try” is a good song, but really where was “Say It Right” as the final lip sync track?

Gisèle continues the trend of unbelievably sickening crowning looks from former winners. Her dress actually looks like ice and diamonds are dripping off of her. Spectacular.

Thank you all so much for joining us for our coverage this season! This has felt like a breakout moment for Canada’s Drag Race, and it’s been a joy to talk about throughout. If you haven’t yet, I highly recommend reading our interview with CDR showrunner Trevor Boris about this season, including details on how the Golden Beaver came to be—and why it is certainly not gold. And of course, we’ll be here all season long with coverage of Season 16 of RuPaul’s Drag Race. The Drag Race rollercoaster never stops, and we can’t thank you enough for joining us for the ride.

The next episode of RuPaul’s Drag Race will air Friday, Jan. 12, at 8 p.m. EST on MTV in the U.S. and on Crave in Canada. Check back every Monday after new episodes for our recaps and power rankings, and subscribe to our drag newsletter Wig! for exclusive Drag Race content delivered straight to your inbox every Tuesday afternoon.

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Culture, Drag Race, Analysis, Drag

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