Lip Sync Battle

Spike TV

Have you watched this show yet? If not, you’re missing out on some serious fun.

Having debuted last spring, Lip Sync Battle is a not a reality show, or a proper vocal competition; it’s more of a silly performance show featuring celebrities (actual A- and B-list celebrities) lip-syncing pop tunes. Based on a skit introduced on Jimmy Fallon’s The Tonight Show by actor John Krasinski, two celebs battle each other each episode with a pair of lip-sync performances for approval of the live studio audience while LL Cool J acts as MC and keeps things light.

We were sold on the first episode last spring when Fallon dueled Dwayne “The Rock” Johnson, and Johnson went all-in with his performance of Taylor Swift’s “Shake It Off.” In fact, a slew of major celebs have appeared on the show since its inception to lip-sync with reckless abandon, diving full-in to their performances that are generally enjoyable in their over-the-top nature.

And that’s what makes the show so fun, the fact that these usually very-guarded celebs are willing to look silly for our enjoyment. Need examples?

How about Anna Kendrick’s bootylicious performance of Jennifer Lopez’ “Booty” when she battled  John Krasinski’s take on Tina Turner’s version of “Proud Mary” complete with Krasinski decked in silvery dress? There was also Salt with Run DMC’s “It’s Tricky” versus Peppa’s “I Will Survive” (that included backup dancers and large, loud wigs). And Justin freaking Bieber with a hammy take of Fergie’s “Big Girls Don’t Cry” in which he called up all his most somber facial expressions to sell the performance, in addition to  his insane performance to Ozzy Osbourne’s “Crazy Train” featuring full-on makeup and wig along with fake metal band to make Beebs look as much like Ozzy as he could get while he pranced around stage like the legendary rocker, and battled Prime-Time Deion Sanders who also went all-in, decked in blonde wig and dress to bring to life Madonna’s “Like a Virgin.”

Perhaps no other “contestant” on the show had a better overall performance than Joseph Gordon-Levitt when on his episode he trotted out to Usher’s “Yeah,” which was priceless with his facial expressions, choreography, and overall seriousness to the material as he took on both Usher’s lyrics and Luda’s rap. But it paled in comparison to his lip sync of Janet Jackson’s “Rhythm Nation” complete with makeup, costume, wig, and impressive re-enactment of Janet’s choreographed number from the video, all of which brought jaw-dropping reactions from host LL Cool J and competitor Anthony Mackie. The boy was so all-in with his performance as his face contorted to extol the pain of the lyrics as if he were singing for his life. Anthony Mackie did a respectable parody of Hammer’s “2 Legit 2 Quit” on the same episode, but damn, Levitt was just 2 much 2 overtake.

A recent episode had Channing Tatum battling his own wife Jenna. As with previous “contestants” of the show they each went all-in with their lip-sync performances. Tatum chose the megahit “Let It Go” from the movie Frozen as he was decked in blonde wig, full makeup, and princess gown, but he later brought down the house when he dawned yet more makeup and wardrobe changes to lip-sync Beyonce’s “Run the World” with hilarious, though impressive choreography with the help of backup dancers.

However his wife proved to be his equal, if not superior with her takes on Genuwine’s “Pony” with elaborate dancing and a show-stopping moment when she brought her hubby onstage to give him a taste of his own Magic Mike medicine with an impressive (PG-13 rated) lap dance. The woman got skills, and showed it much to Tatum’s delight. Her other performance took on Paula Abdul’s “Cold Hearted” in which she again performed terrific, choreographed dance moves in keeping with Abdul’s video while decked in an Abdul-like outfit from back in the day.

Major props to all the stars who allowed themselves to look ridiculous for a few moments as they (usually) threw themselves completely into their lip-sync performances, sometimes with costumes and background dancers, exaggerated expressions on their faces, and, occasionally, with the help of the original singers of the songs who stepped out to help finish off performances.

The key to this show is its ability to continue to reel in such A-listers who are willing to look foolish and really work to sell their performances. They don’t come off as foolish for real because it’s all for laughs, but because they allow themselves that type of vulnerability they become endearing to the audience and the performances provide generous laughs. We appreciate their risks to strip down their façades and let loose in order to entertain us in a way they likely had never envisioned when they struck out to become famous.

We can only hope that Tom Cruise soon appears on the show to perform Flo Rida’s “Low” or Luda’s “Get Back,” two songs he danced to in full makeup as creepy movie producer Les Grossman in the movie Tropic Thunder, though sadly he did not lip-sync either song.

What a perfect stage for Cruise to unleash his potential lip-sync talents.
 

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