Lip Sync Battle is a comedy/singing-competition show based on a Tonight Show segment. It shouldn’t work as its own show, but it does — two celebrities face off against each other in two lip-sync rounds, one no-frills song each in the first round, followed by a round of all-out costumes-and-backup-dancers productions. The audience decides the winner, based on a super-scientific poll of “who’s cheering the loudest.”
It’s super fun to watch and as a half-hour show, it doesn’t get boring by the time it’s over. Of course they always make a huge deal about how hard the competitors have trained, how viciously they’re going to compete, how WINNING THE TITLE IS EVERYTHING. It’s a refreshing change from the other competition shows out there, inevitably trying to convince you their game show really is a life-altering experience that promises career domination in the future. It’s casual and fun — and it knows how to be those things for a modern audience. All the performances are available on Youtube.
What interests me here, though, is gender and how it’s treated on the show. From the very first performance, Dwayne “The Rock” Johnson syncing his heart out to Taylor Swift’s “Shake it Off,” it’s been totally fine for male contestants to do female singers’ songs and vice versa, playing it up rather than playing it down. A selected list:
- Anna Kendrick’s rendition of “Steal My Girl” by One Direction, making it all about Emily Blunt (because she was up against John Krasinski, Blunt’s husband).
- John Krasinski doing Tina Turner’s “Proud Mary,” complete with sparkly skirted costume.
- Terry Crews shouting “SOMETIMES YOU GOTTA GET IT DONE WITH YOUR FEMININE SIDE” after “A Thousand Miles.”
- Julianne Hough’s version of “I Just Had Sex,” which is entirely about the singer’s penis.
And that really is a shortened list. Cross-gender songs are about as common as same-gender choices, whether the performers make a big production out of it or not.
Here’s my question though. Why is it funny? Is it only funny because we know The Rock isn’t actually “girly,” and Emily Blunt is married to the opponent? Most of the songs are chosen for humor value, either because of the juxtaposition of two different artists or because the song itself is controversial or both, as with Anne Hathaway doing “Wrecking Ball.”
For me, it’s funny because it’s unexpected. Because on the show, nobody cares. You can sing whatever song you want, and it reflects the way the rest of us listen to and appreciate music. I’m gonna sing along with Taylor Swift and with Def Leppard. Because I can, and I want to, and because they both express emotions I am capable of feeling. Because even if it’s not my actual experience, I can still appreciate someone else’s. The Lip Sync Battle songs are classics or well-known popular songs, and I think that’s part of the show’s appeal — it takes celebrities we know and lets us feel like we’re hanging out with them, singing along with the music we all know, the way we do with all the rest of our friends.
What do you think?
Next week kicks off GLBT Book Month, which uncoincidentally is also Pride Month. I’ll have a list of book and media recommendations, so drop by and add to the list!