The heterosexual community is inviting itself to participate in lip-sync competitions on national television. “The Tonight Show with Jimmy Fallon” has featured spirited lip-sync battles with a number of celebrities, and they're often quite good. Enchanting!
Let's sort through Jimmy's combatants on “The Tonight Show” and pick the king/queen of his lip-syncing galas. I'm exempting Jimmy since he has five times the experience of his competitors. I'm also exempting celebrities who've performed on the spinoff series “Lip Sync Battle” since it tends to feel like a lamer version of the “Tonight Show” festivities.
Before we begin, here is what a real lip-sync competition looks like. If you're not watching “RuPaul's Drag Race,” you're really missing cutting-edge work in the lip-syncing medium:
So there. Anyway: On we go to ranking the top five.
9. Lena Dunham, Calvin Harris's “Outside” (ft. Ellie Goulding) and Queen's “Fat Bottomed Girls”
I give Lena Dunham credit for choosing songs from two different universes, but she ran out of funny ideas fast during both performances. “Outside” is a solid song choice with plenty of opportunity for emotional overacting, but “Fat Bottomed Girls” is only hilarious in the abstract. I think Lena would've been savvier to pick something in the sassy R&B realm. 702's “Where My Girls At” springs to mind.
8. Kevin Hart: John Legend's “All of Me” and Katy Perry's “Roar”
7. Will Ferrell: Beyonce's “Drunk In Love” and Idina Menzel's “Let It Go”
Anyone else shocked that Kevin Hart picked two hugely popular, uninspired song choices? “All of Me” and “Roar”? Really? Who wants to see that? Will Ferrell at least brought his signature blend of gross sensuality and commitment to his takes on “Drunk in Love” and “Let It Go”? I'm not in love with those song choices either (especially since Will didn't nail the lip-sync on “Drunk In Love,” which would've been uproarious), but he earned a couple of solid chuckles.
6. John Krasinski: Katy Perry's “Teenage Dream,” Run DMC's “Peter Piper,” and Boyz II Men's “I'll Make Love to You”
Ironic that Krasinski was the one to introduce the idea of a lip-syncing contest to Fallon in the first place, because his technique needs the most work on this list. First of all, “Teenage Dream” and “I'll Make Love to You” are only funny in theory. They're a bit too obvious, a bit too lachrymose. And worse, Krasinski doesn't really live up to the power-pop bigness of “Teenage Dream,” and he lets Jimmy cow him on the Boyz II men number. I appreciate his stage presence, but I didn't believe that he wanted to be my teenage dream or make love to me. And that is worst crime of all.
5. Tom Cruise: The Weeknd's “Can't Feel My Face” and Meat Loaf's “Paradise by the Dashboard Light”
I wanted Tom Cruise's lip-sync to be weird, and the ageless intergalactic warlord pulled through. “Can't Feel My Face” is a diplomatically cool choice, and “Paradise by the Dashboard Light” is almost the dorkiest single option available. Tom has clearly known that song since it first came out in the early '90s, and God bless. It's just his brand of alpha lunacy. Well done, Lestat.
4. Stephen Merchant: DJ Jazzy Jeff and the Fresh Prince's “Boom Shake the Room” and Beyonce's “Single Ladies (Put a Ring on It)”
3. Joseph Gordon-Levitt: Elton John's “Tiny Dancer” and Nicki Minaj's “Super Bass”
This pains me, because both Merchant and JGL deliver in major ways. Merchant's “Boom Shake the Room” rendition is fantastic, fully realized and spilling with verve. He's in charge of that song. He is that song. But his “Single Ladies” attempt is a throwaway, merely an exhibition of copped dance moves that have been parodied for five years now. This was a wonderful opportunity to try “Lose My Breath” or “Solider” or a far less expected winner in the Beyonce oeuvre. Instead he chose the song your great aunt Pam knows.
Joseph Gordon-Levitt, meanwhile, brought chutzpah and James Brown-sized spectacle to his boring choices. “Tiny Dancer” is just not a thrilling lip-sync selection, and while the labial agility required of “Super Bass” is staggering, it is one of the most ubiquitous “fast-talking” songs of the past few years. Hell, Taylor Swift sang it once. Fortunately, JGL's mic stand-rocking, devastating commitment is second to none. He is lost in the yellow brick road of Elton glamor and Nicki zeal. I do wish he could've made a little more of an ass of himself, if only because I suspect JGL really takes himself quite seriously (Anybody else get that feeling?), but he managed to eke out a great performance.
2. Emma Stone: Blues Traveler's “Hook” and DJ Khaled's “All I Do is Win”
Emma accomplished something significant here. First of all, Blues Traveler and DJ Khaled are both very inspired, very different, illuminatingly strange song choices. It is weird that Emma Stone knows the words to “Hook” and wants to share that with us. Her selection is personal and raw and outrageous. And DJ Khaled — while not a terribly difficult cover subject in his jubilant proclamations — is still a crowd-pleasing and gigantic-enough pick to make for great lip theater. Like Stephen Merchant, she is not afraid to be bizarre. And her performance, ultimately, is endearing.
1. Paul Rudd: Tina Turner's “Better Be Good to Me” and Queen's “Don't Stop Me Now”
No question, this is the best. No question. Paul Rudd's first song choice is genius. “Better Be Good to Me” is one of the nerviest Tina Turner jams, and Paul is clearly aware of her every snarl, whisper, and shout. No one else would choose that song but Paul Rudd, and that's what a lip-sync competition is secretly about: flying your individual freak flag. For his followup, he could've chosen any old Queen favorite, but he chose a fabulously underrated bopper “Don't Stop Me Now.” For me, his victory is sealed when he stares at both cameras during the Queen tune. It's clear he has something all the other performers don't: the ability and desire to freak everybody out. Yes. That is why we have these things. Yes. Girl, I love you, man.