When I’m feeling down, I watch clips of the show, Lip Sync Battle, and it never fails to cheer me up. It’s just loads of fun, and it’s great to see the contestants go all out for the second performance. One thing I started to notice is that a lot of the guys like to do songs sung by women. I don’t know why that struck me, but it’s something I’ve been thinking about for some time, so I decided to do a thinkpiece about it because why the hell not?
I think it has something to do with it being a safe way to express their femininity. In addition, most of them are actors, so they’re probably more flexible in their ideas of gender fluidity–at least the ones who dressed up to some degree as the singer (or as a woman in general).
I consider myself a Lip Sync Battle connoisseur since I’ve watched so many clips (and repeatedly). It’s not a guilty pleasure because I feel no guilt at all while I’m singing along. There are several categories of men lip syncing to women singing, so I’m going to tackle them one by one with examples before presenting you my top five fave performances in this genre ever.
The first category is guys who don’t change their appearances at all, but simply lip sync to the song. Dwayne Johnson singing Shake It Off by Taylor Swift is one such example. He’s wearing a t-shirt and jeans, but the joy with which he bounces around and shakes his shoulders is infectious. In addition, there’s something sublimely silly about a musclebound man like ‘The Rock’ imitating a teenager’s giggle.
Jay Leno doing My World is Empty Without You by The Supremes fits this category. He put on a white suit and tie, but wisely played it straight (though funny) otherwise. Metta World Peace dressed like a Roman emperor while performing Roar by Katy Perry, It’s hilarious! Matt McGorry is a hoot as he performs Work From Home by Fifth Harmony, but he’s definitely aaaaaaalll male. Terry Crews smiling as he lip syncs to A Thousand Miles by Vanessa Carlton is guaranteed to make you laugh, and it helps that’s he becomes shirtless and does some ribbon dancing–plus, he makes his pecs dance. Yes, please!
Please note, I may not have every example in the category, but I think I’m giving plenty of examples.
Next up is the category of ‘let me just slap a wig on and call it a day’. Gregg Sulkin does a wicked Milkshake by Kelis, and I’m not fawning over it simply because he takes off his shirt and dumps a milkshake on the wig. It helps, and I had to quick-Google to make sure he was legal. 25, so just barely–for me. (Start at 2:15.)
I’d drink his milkshake any time! We also have Shaq doing a truly transcendent performance of Maniac by Michael Sembello. OK, this is kind of cheating because it’s sung by a man, but seeing Shaq in a wig and leg warmers, grooving all over the stage, then dousing himself in water is totally worth it. Besides, he’s performing as a woman, so it counts! In a similar vein, Josh Gad throws on a huge silver bow and becomes Whitney Houston, performing, How Will I Know?. His other performance…well, you can Google it if you want to see a truly terrifying Trump impression. I’m adding ‘throw a wig and a dress’ into this category because it’s very similar, and we have Joel McHale doing Bjork’s It’s Oh So Quiet in a black wig and a bright yellow dress.
Next up, we have the category of putting some effort into the outfit, but still looking definitely on the masculine side. My absolute favorite in this category is Stephen Merchant getting nasty (as he has branded on his ass) with Christina Aguilera’s Dirrty (starting at 2:26). He’s wearing assless leather chaps over a pair of black panties with NASTY in white lettering on the ass, paired with a Union Jack muscle shirt. It’s…Well, you have to see it to believe it. And, yes, he did stuff his panties with a rolled-up pair of socks which Chrissy Teigen then sniffs, thank you very much.
Stephen Merchant can get it. Don’t @ me!! Bonus of him lip syncing to Hero by Enrique Iglesias because it’s fucking hilarious, and the song always makes me laugh at how cheesy it is. Pardon me while I have a moment.
::fans self vigorously::
::is reminded she needs to finish Portal 2::
Next up, Jon Krasinski’s channeling his inner Tina Turner and doing a righteous version of Proud Mary, sparkly dress included. It’s one of my favorite all-time songs, and it’s so much fun to watch him shimmy and wiggle. Clark Gregg nails Toxic by Britney Spears, and has killer legs to boot. His wife, Jennifer Grey, makes a surprise appearance. Nobody puts Baby in a corner! Then we have Todd Chrisley who dresses up like Shania Twain to croon about how Man! I Feel Like a Woman. Yet, he still looks totally masculine (except for the pasties on his nipples which he shows at the end!). T.J. Miller does an appropriately bizarre interpretation of Lady Gaga’s Just Dance, replete with exaggerated shoulder patches and KISS eye black. Craig Ferguson goes all out with a blond wig and a cat-themed t-shirt dress, and white fringed go-go boots against the aforementioned Jay Leno. Plus garish makeup, but he keeps the mustache and beard as he ‘croons’ Take a Chance on Me by ABBA. Plus, there’s an actual unicorn with which he snogs at the very end.
Next, we have the contestants that put more effort into their dress to actually resemble the singer they’re performing as–or at least appear more stereotypically feminine. First up is my fave of this bunch, and it almost made my top five. It’s Nick Swardson strutting his stuff as a fifties dame as he mouths Elle King’s Ex’s and Oh’s. I love his checkered tablecloth cropped top and high-waist jeans, and his overall sassy attitude! Start around 1:32.
Then we have Bryshere Gray singing his angst as a brokenhearted Taylor Swift–is there any other kind of Taylor Swift?–bopping his way through, We Are Never Ever Getting Back Together. In the character of loving homage, we have Jim Rash with an outstanding P!nk impersonation, doing So What. He nails every detail, and I’m impressed with his dedication to detail. He even has the abs to rival hers. On the other end of the spectrum, there’s Deion Sanders doing Madonna’s Like a Virgin. Words cannot describe this performance. Trust me when I say, you have to see it to believe it. I’m still snickering at him acting all shy and virgin-ly.
OK. Now it’s time for my top five. I’ll explain why I like each one before posting it, and then you’ll see the magnificence as I do, hopefully.
#5: Gordon Levy Jr.*, er Joseph Gordon-Levitt, with an astounding version of Janet Jackson’s Rhythm Nation. He proves you don’t have to do blackface (just, don’t do that) in order to embody the spirit of the person you’re personifying. He has the moves and the mannerisms down pat, and it’s just makes me want to jump up and start protesting. His other performance is equally good, but it doesn’t fit this category. I would classify this in the ‘dressing as the person’ category, and JGL does it right. Start at the two-minute mark.
#4: Channing Potato, er, Tatum as Beyonce is mind-blowing. I will admit that I don’t get the Channing love as I find him stridently bland. I mean, he’s pleasant to look at, I guess, but there’s nothing about him that pops out to me. This performance, though. Mad props to him for going all the way with Run the World (Girls). He works the stage like he owns it, glorying in his long lovely locks and fake feminine body. He’s popping and sassing like he was born to it. He’s definitely hotter this way! It’s a tour de force, and he caps it off by bring out Bey herself. It’s jaw-dropping, and my hat’s off to him. Start at 1:53.
#3: Zachary Quinto’s Get Your Freak On by Missy Elliott. This was my favorite for a very long time. First of all, Missy Elliott is a goddess, and I will brook no dissent on this matter. Secondly, Zachary embodies Missy without going overboard, which isn’t easy to do. Again, no blackface (seriously, don’t ever fucking do this), and no overtly exaggerated ‘female’ characteristics. Just some lipsticks, a wig, and big hoop earrings. It helps that Missy dresses in unisex clothing a lot of the time, but man, does he get it exactly right. Plus, this performance is just bonkers. Him hanging from the chandelier one-handed at the end is my everything! The only reason this has been pushed down to number three is because 1 and 2 are out of this stratosphere. Start at 2:15.
#2: My god. This one is….words fail me. It’s Taye Diggs doing Vogue by Madonna such as it’s meant to be done. He’s got the glam. He’s got the sex appeal. He’s got the conic boobs. He’s got the blond crimped wig. He’s got the chin stubble. He’s got the high leather black boots. He’s giving me life with this performance! Like, I want to bed him right now. It’s magical! When he flits and twirls, it’s so fucking hot. I like that he’s having such fun with it. He prances across the stage, then grabs himself by the boobs or the balls. It’s funny as hell. He pretends to do a death drop at the end, but he has to fake it until he can make it. The first time I watched it, I was staring at him bug-eyed. Yes, this is pretty tame by drag standards, but for mainstream TV, it’s pretty wow. Start at 1:39.
And, #1 is, drum roll please…
Tom Holland as Rihanna, performing Umbrella (a little bit of Singin’ in the Rain, too). Was there any doubt that this would be my number one? I like how he starts out in a suit and tie with a fedora on his head and dances a little soft shoe, mouthing the words to the old Gene Kelly song. He has a dance background, which I Googled after watching his performance. Anyway, it’s all old-timey for a few seconds, and then he disappears for a quick change. He comes out in a little black latex number that includes hot pants with white frills, white frills around his wrists, and black net. He starts grinding around to Umbrella, including an actual umbrella in some of his suggestive moves, and even his opponent, Zendaya, is blown away. He’s sexy and hot with his gender fluidity, and it’s a bit discomfiting because he’s less than half my age. But those dance moves, though. The thing is, he gives it his all. He commits to the performance, which is more than half the battle. And he can dance like a mofo. I love it when the ‘rain’ falls, and he’s cavorting in it. Also, he makes all the moves look effortless, which they most definitely aren’t. He ends with a front flip, landing on his back, and it’s a fantastic performance. I’ve watched this at least two dozen times, and it never gets old. Start at 1:42 and don’t miss a single second!
There you have it! My completely objective list of my five favorite performances of men doing women’s songs on Lip Sync Battle. Enjoy!
*I legit called him that for the longest time. Now, it’s more of a joke than anything else.