Read my lips: please, enough already with the lip-syncing, Celebrity America.
Thanks to cheap laugh-getter Jimmy Fallon, the unfortunate trend of lip-syncing that resumed on his Tonight Show has found an audience. In his version, megastars "battle" one another by mimicking the lyrics of popular songs. The practice has found enough of an audience to cause Spike TV, purveyor of fine programs like MANswers and Stripperella, to spawn its own half-hour show. The it-is-what-it-is-now-consume-it title of the show, Lip Sync Battle, proves they're not even trying to polish this turd for you, America.
Yes, there are more important matters in the world to rail against and sure, this is just killjoy criticism of something that should only be seen as a fun diversion from all those other important matters to rail against. But there's music involved here. And, more to the point, the decision about which music makes the cut and which doesn't simply irks me as a music listener.
I watched the first episode, although the numerous Tonight Show bits have already grown tired. If you ask me, once Paul Rudd mimed Queen's "Don't Stop Me Now," it was game over. But, of course, we must all get a turn pummeling the horse before we decide it's dead and needs to be buried, only to come galloping back 15 or 20 years later. So, enjoy Lip Sync Battle while you can, horse-beaters.
The show began with host LL Cool J introducing the concept to a rather large live audience by saying "You know what it is, you've seen it..." Yes, we've seen it before, a couple of decades ago when it was called Putting On the Hits and at least gave ordinary, non-famous folks the spotlight for a moment. In that variant, a hairdresser from Hoboken or a cake decorator from Houston might have the chance to be a TV star for a few minutes.
Not so in 2015. Fittingly, the first "battle" featured Fallon against lifelong fake-battler Dwayne "The Rock" Johnson. There's plenty to dislike about the show beginning with the premise alone, so that'll be the focus here, rather than LL Cool J's continued career spiral into cheesing for any TV camera or Chrissy Teigen talking about her breasts (yep, didn't even have to wait until Episode 2 for that). But even Teigen talking about her moneymakers is less obscene than the show's position on music.
But isn't this a comedy show, you might say. At its heart, this is a music show. Without music, there's no show. No one is going to tune in to Lip Sync Battle if The Rock is wearing a tattered sweater and a curly perm while miming along to Kurt Vonnegut's read-by-the-author audio version of Cat's Cradle (okay, I admit, I would watch that).
Story continues on the next page.
But, even if the version was a literary one rather than a musical one, it's unlikely the show's producers would allow its participants to go "Tiger got to hunt, bird got to fly," for a nation of sheeple. The flock has to be force-fed more of what it's already overconsuming, according to Lip Sync Battle. So, you know, lots of Bella soliloquies from the Twilight series.
The first episode of the show featured four songs, leading off with Taylor Swift's "Shake It Off." There was a Madonna entry and "Stayin' Alive" by the Bee Gees. The one song that might be considered diverse was Harry Belafonte's "Jump in the Line." Without Beetlejuice, I'm pretty sure that song would never have made it to your living rooms, Lip Sync Battle fans.
The inherent music problem with this show is how confined the music has to be for the premise to succeed. As Fallon himself points out in Episode 1, when Johnson says he is going to perform "Tay-Tay" (excuse me while I lip-sync the sounds of dry-heaving), "you can't lip sync a song no one's ever heard of." It's not that those songs aren't good, it's just that we've already heard them more than we'll ever need to. A bunch of rich people acting a fool doesn't add value to the song. It just adds infinitum and adds nauseam.
So, don't expect to see Will Ferrell in corpse paint doing a King Diamond song. You're not going to get Evan Rachel Wood performing Bright Eyes' "At the Bottom of Everything," even though she once starred in the song's video. You'll never see John Krasinski (one of the show's producers) try a Watsky song, although Watsky's songs are brilliant, faster-than-light tongue-twisters and it might be impressive to see some schlub attempt to faux-flow with Watsky. Not enough TV viewers have heard Watsky's music to make it an appealing act, the show producers would argue, though Watsky might welcome the exposure to a new audience.
If you want to watch skilled people do battle on television, why not choose Knife Fight or Chopped or even -- wait for it -- The Voice? Even that show has allowed its performers to include non-blockbuster songs by Howie Day and Ellie Goulding this season. In the second episode of Lip Sync Battle, two people who can actually carry a tune, John Legend and Common, must resort to a Jackson 5 song, Lionel Richie's "All Night Long" and, of course, MC Hammer's "U Can't Touch This." You can't make this stuff up.
Lip-syncing. It's a problem. Someone needs to speak up to stop it. So, speak silently, America, by just changing the channel so we can already be done with this nonsense.
Like what you read? Or are we missing something? We'd love for you to join our team.
ROCKS OFF'S GREATEST HITS
Keep the Houston Press Free... Since we started the Houston Press, it has been defined as the free, independent voice of Houston, and we would like to keep it that way. Offering our readers free access to incisive coverage of local news, food and culture. Producing stories on everything from political scandals to the hottest new bands, with gutsy reporting, stylish writing, and staffers who've won everything from the Society of Professional Journalists' Sigma Delta Chi feature-writing award to the Casey Medal for Meritorious Journalism. But with local journalism's existence under siege and advertising revenue setbacks having a larger impact, it is important now more than ever for us to rally support behind funding our local journalism. You can help by participating in our "I Support" membership program, allowing us to keep covering Houston with no paywalls.