It is now perfectly acceptable for pop stars to lip-sync during live performances, as long as they provide a sufficiently fantastic spectacle in return. This spring, lip-syncing has even gone all the way to opera: In Opera Philadelphia’s short “The Island We Made”, “Drag Race” winner Sasha Velor appears as a soaring maternal spirit, channeling the voice. of singer Eliza Bagg through her sparkling red lips. . And this fall, you can take a Zoom lip sync course with performance specialist MB Boucai, integrating the psychological gesture technique of Michael Chekhov and the mime tradition of Jacques Lecoq.
Even as lip-syncing is reaching new artistic heights, TikTok has democratized it, encouraging its billion global users to sing casually. The app accommodates performance styles as disparate as Rae performing basic cheerleader moves and a girl articulating the Counting Crows’ song “Shrek 2” “Accidentally in Love” to youthful footage from the Unabomber. On a crowdsourced app, it makes sense that the central creative function has a low barrier to entry. Much like Instagram made everyone a hipster photographer with their vintage filters, TikTok turns their audiences into experimental mash-up artists, with conscious nods to the artifices built into the experience.
Additionally, as our mediation experience increases, we have come to appreciate the skills of the people who mediate. Much of TikTok’s charm comes from its lo-fi aesthetic, janky green screen effects, and hand-shaking shots. There is no longer a suspicious Hollywood power broker pulling the strings. (Or if there is, it came later, after the TikToker was already famous on the internet.) The app took all the hallmarks of Hollywood manipulation – dubbing, but also airbrushing and CGI – and brought them together. put into the hands of the user, where they have used them in a hypnotic, surprising, sometimes magnificent way.
In the tradition of drag, lip syncing freed the body from the physical demands of singing, opening up stunning new visual possibilities. Lip syncing on TikTok is less about testing the limits of the body and more about exploring the limits of the phone. Some of the most interesting content in the app is created by young people streaming under their parents’ roofs and, in a sense, they are practicing their own kind of underground burlesque, playing with their identities in nondescript contexts. The technology may be new, but the performance is as pure as singing through a hairbrush.
Addison Rae is not an out of the ordinary lip-syncer, but that’s not her goal. A drag queen lip-syncs with spectacular effort and razor-sharp precision, but Rae telegraphs the opposite, wearing the practice with flirtatious levity and showing the mediocre technique of an amateur. Its audience on the application (84.6 million) seems unwarranted by its skills, but its accessibility is part of the attraction. Maybe you could be her, if you were born with superior tooth enamel and an unearthly awareness of your most flattering angles. That’s not to say the TikTok star’s actual job is easy: When Rae didn’t post for a week in 2020, internet headlines speculated she was pregnant or dead.
Rae’s early TikToks are staged in carpeted rooms with bare walls and inert ceiling fans, but as she gains popularity her track record has grown more glamorous – Hollywood band house , infinity pool, inner Kardashian sanctuary. The precocious thrill of her videos, which featured a girl next door unexpectedly surfing cultural currents to stardom, has faded. Now that the self-reinforcing TikTok algorithm has secured its hegemony over the app, it is rapidly invading more traditional entertainment spheres. You can find her on YouTube, where she sings the short but tedious pop single “Obsessed”; at Sephora, where she sells her branded makeup line; and now on Netflix, which signed her to a multi-picture contract.