She didn’t win Drag Race, but Shea Coulee has made a strong bid for your attention with the release of her self-titled visual EP. The EP dropped last week and it’s a journey worth exploring over several listens and watches. The three videos released for the EP are visually and sonically diverse.
The visual EP opens with “Drive” directed by Sam Bailey, a song that will almost certainly draw comparisons to Grace Jones. Coulee’s vocals are not strong by any means but they are unique. The beat is slow and slinky; the video takes viewers through a junkyard, tube station and dance studio. Black trans women and drag queens appear alongside Coulee looking defiant and fierce. There’s something extremely powerful about the video’s depiction of it’s characters. At times the images onscreen seem so defiant for even existing. How often do we see black trans women and black drag queens depicted as autonomous, powerful women in mainstream media? The answer should be more than enough of a reason to give this video a watch.
“Cocky” directed by Jarren Merrell is similarly powerful if not a bit reductive. The song seems to be a fan favorite, but I would wager that rapping is not Coulee’s forte. She made a mistake to put Lila Star (who could snatch Lil Kim’s wig real quick) and The Vixen on the song because they easily outshine her and the production seems to swallow the vocals. But the video certainly delivers and the song itself is enjoyable, however it’s not my favorite.
My favorite is “Feeling So” directed by Vincent Martell. Coulee describes the song as two lovers taking acid and exploring the night. The song is so full of joy and life that I cannot say one bad thing about it. The video is how you create a visual and use every OUNCE of the budget. From the animations to the split screens, Coulee and Martell have created a music video that is bursting with excitement.
I should say again that Coulee is not a gifted singer, but she’s not concerned with being a powerhouse vocalist. I think Coulee would say that the voice is not necessarily what listeners and viewers should be focused on. It should be on the black excellence and themes presented before them. It should be about the emotions heard in her vocals. Like Grace Jones before her, Coulee is not interested in being a natural vocalist; she’s interested in giving her viewers an experience and crafting a feeling. For this reason I think Coulee will be here a lot longer than many of her Drag Race contemporaries. Keep making these visuals, girl.