Spring has truly returned! How do we know this? Because, in four days, our good friend Mr. Charles will open the doors for the latest class at his Finishing School for Wayward Gender Illusionists.
And with it, comes the latest crop of fresh, young starlets that are competing to show their Charisma, Uniqueness, Nerve, and Talent to the world as they try to become the eighth person to claim the title of “America’s Next Drag Superstar.” Along with the usual amounts of glamor, shade, and shenanigans, this also heralds the return of my favorite part of the show…
… no, not THE DRAG RACE SCOREBOARD (though trust and believe that it will be back in its full glory come Tuesday)…
… no, we’re talking about the best part of the show (or, what should be the best part)…
The Lip Sync For Your Life!
One of my biggest complaints from last season (aside from the painfully obvious producer manipulation) (and the lack of any big glorious moments from the season) (and the shameful way our dear Max was treated) was that we weren’t treated to any good lip sync battles; which, in my mind, should be the moment everyone is talking about that episode; a nail-biting moment as we all lean forward and watch two queens duke it out where it counts – in performance.
And so, as our beloved show gears up for it’s 100th Episode (which, coincidentally, will be the Season 8 premiere) and the show’s 100th Queen to walk into the WERK-room, I thought that to get us in the mood (and to prep for Logo’s massive marathon of every episode of the show starting tonight, Thursday, March 3 at 7pm Eastern / 6pm Central), I thought it would be fun to look back at the best Lip Sync battles in the show’s her-story.
Before we begin, let me clarify one important thing about this list and the criteria I’m using. First off, this is a look at the best battles, where both performers are giving their all and the final decision (though always Mother Ru’s to make) was never clear right away. This sadly means that certain iconic performances such as Dida Ritz’s breathtaking rendition of “This Will Be” or Latrice Royale’s iconic “(You Make Me Feel Like A) Natural Woman” will not be on this list; as brilliant as those two performances were, they were very clearly one-sided competitions where they mopped the floor with their respective combatants. Another key factor is that the song in question should either be something that is either in both performers’ wheelhouses, or that both will have trouble with. There are many times in the show’s her-story where Ru will throw a song at a certain performer knowing that they can deliver on. This list tries to avoid those moments.
And now the list (And I do apologize for the quality):
HONORABLE MENTION: Latrice Royale v. Dida Ritz (Season 4, Episode 9)
“I’ve Got To Use My Imagination” – Gladys Knight
HONORABLE MENTION: Coco Montrese v. Jade Jolie (Season 5, Episode 6)
“I’m So Excited” – The Pointer Sisters
I’m putting both of these moments together as they illustrate the same scenario; when a song is clearly weighted towards the talents of one contestant but the other one manages to rally, making the final decision a lot tougher than anticipated. In the case of the former, while Dida rallied and gave an admirable performance, Ms. Royale was made to handle Gladys Knight. In the case of the latter, Coco Montrese was surprised to see little Jade Jolie come out with an energetic performance of the Pointer Sisters’ standard. Even better, this performance would kick off a run of great lip syncs that would anchor the back half of the fifth season involving Ms. Montrese or her erstwhile best frenemy, but we’ll talk about her in a moment.
Morgan McMichaels v. Sonique (Season 2, Episode 4)
“Two Of Hearts” – Stacey Q
As I said in the intro, a great Lip Synch For Your Life battle only happens when both players have an even playing field to work from, which makes this moment in Season 2 the textbook case for what it should be as it gave both performers a chance to show what they can do with the material. Sonique showed off her body and did some of the most impressive gymnastics ever seen on the main stage, while Morgan McMichaels was living on that stage with one of the most precise lip syncs ever (just watch it again and gag on the accuracy). Though it ended with Sonique having to sashay away, it was a close call.
Jujubee v. Pandora Boxx (Season 2, Episode 8)
“Shake Your Love” – Debbie Gibson
The Sophie’s Choice of Drag Race herstory. As horrifying of a moment as this was (Really Ru? Pitting two of fandom’s favorites against each other?), and as gobsmacking as the result was (while we would have hated to see either go, the elimination of Pandora Boxx was the shocking moment of Season 2), I have to admit that when the time came for dear Pandy to face the mighty Jujubee that this late ‘80s standard was the perfect choice of material for both ladies; with plenty of moments for Jujubee to nail (the keyboard bit) while playing into Pandora’s natural charisma. And both ladies delivered!
Bebe Zahara Benet v. Nina Flowers (Season 1, Episode 8)
“Cover Girl (Put The Base In Your Walk)” – RuPaul
Speaking of both ladies delivering, let’s flash back to the halcyon days of Season 1; where Merle Ginsberg was still on the judge’s panel, the sets were cheap, and the camera lenses were slathered in vaseline. And, more importantly, to the closest final two in the show’s her-story. To this day the RPDR fandom is still torn between who should have won; our local gal made good Madame Cameroon, or the force of nature known as La Loca. Rather than have a bitter battle for the crown, Mother Ru asked her two best girls to do one final lip sync. And rather than fighting and ultimately proving what class acts they are, Mmes. Benet and Flowers joined forces for an epic performance of “Cover Girl…” that left the fandom cheering. This would not only be the classiest moment of a win, but Bebe and Nina’s performance would set the bar very high on the show; not only for lip syncs, but for what we expect from the top queens.
Delta Work v. Manila Luzon (Season 3, Episode 8)
“Macarthur Park” – Donna Summer
It’s hard to think of when the term “Drag Assassin” was first coined; the queen whose lip syncs were so strong that she sent every other bitch packing. While Jujubee would certainly qualify, the first truly lethal lip syncer would have to be Delta Work, who would rally from her poor performances with a great lip sync. As she entered her third lip sync to the strains of the odd but highly emotional Donna Summer disco standard, we knew she would deliver. What we didn’t know was that this would give Manilla Luzon a chance to show off her amazing skills; combining deep camp, operatic levels of emotion and more. No top list is complete without this.
Carmen Carrera v. Raja (Season 3, Episode 12)
“Straight Up” – Paula Abdul
This easily might be the first (and only) time where the show ever threw straight men a bone, as the two Heathers turned Paula Abdul’s standard into lesbian porn. First Carmen Carrera whipped off her panties, then Raja took off her dress, and a million straight men became very aroused and sexually confused. It also helps that both ladies delivered on the song.
Latrice Royale v. Tammie Brown (All Stars Season 1, Episode 2)
“There’s No Business Like Show Business” – Ethel Merman
I had a lot of problems with the first season of All Stars; namely the team challenges and the paired lip sync with the option to tag out in a she-mergency being the top of the list. That said though, it produced one of the oddest Lip Sync For Your Life moments that has ever been seen; namely watching the mighty Latrice Royale struggling to keep up in a lip sync battle. And who was it that almost sent her home? Why Miss Tammie Brown with her inspired (and inspiredly odd) take on Ethel Merman’s warhorse in a magnetic performance. While cooler heads prevailed and Latrice lived to fight another day, Miss Brown made it a nail-biting moment.
Alexis Mateo v. Raven (All Stars Season 1, Episode 4)
“Don’t Cha” – The Pussycat Dolls
As I said, there was a lot of messed up things about All Stars, particularly in the lip syncs (a Jujubee and Manila bout that was boring?!!, Raven and Juju’s fizzle on “Dancing On My Own,” etc.) but this one takes the “WTF?!” prize. But first a side note: I’ve always thought Alexis Mateo has gotten the short stick as a contestant and performer, even though she came in third in Season 3. Which is a damn shame as she’s a compelling performer and managed to send such strong competitors as Stacey Layne Matthews, Shangela, and her team mate Yara Sofia packing (in particular, her performance of Fantasia’s “Even Angels” is a stunning example of polish and poise). As Alexis launched into “Don’t Cha” she managed the seemingly impossible – she had Raven on the ropes in a lip sync battle! And frankly, she probably could have sent Raven packing… that is until Yara tapped her out, thinking she could take Raven out. Just as a reminder: Yara failed to knock out Carmen Carrera and only survived because Ru declared it a draw, and Yara’s “breakdown” during her battle with Alexis failed to get her into the final three. Why did she think she could pull this off? Meanwhile, Raven took the moment and went in for the kill. It’s an audacious moment.
Detox v. Jinkx Monsoon (Season 5, Episode 11)
“Malambo No. 1” – Yma Sumac
This is another case of the right material for the right people. If you’re going to put two queens as different as Detox and Jinkx Monsoon in a battle to get into the final three, you need material that’s slightly esoteric and yet challenging. And what better material than Yma Sumac’s “Malambo No. 1,” a song that’s become a drag queen staple in spite of the fact that it’s a hellaciously tricky number that’s equally operatic and campy. While both ladies delivered, Jinkx brought the much needed air of camp that the song needed. But both should be thankful that they didn’t have to go up against the great Alaska, who owned the number in the Season 5 premiere party.
Joslyn Fox v. Laganja Estranja (Season 6, Episode 8)
“Stupid Girls” – Pink
Not really a great lip sync battle, but it did contain this iconic moment…
Katya v. Kennedy Davenport (Season 7, Episode 12)
“Roar” – Katy Perry
The lip sync of last season. After a season of mediocre lip syncs we got treated to a true battle royale. Ms. Davenport honored her drag sister (the late Sahara Davenport) by recreating her legendary split leap off the stage. Katya nailed her cartwheel into a split, and both women gave us what we desperately needed.
Alyssa Edwards v. Coco Montrese (Season 5, Episode 9)
“Cold Hearted” – Paula Abdul
It would be easy to include all of Alyssa Edwards’ lip syncs in this list for their brilliance and Ms. Edwards’ powerful stage presence and brilliant dance moves (her performance of “Ain’t Nothing Going On But The Rent” was pure 1980s power bitch porn, with Ms. Edwards writhing on the stage like a demented Sue Ellen Ewing). And while I thought long and hard about including her battle with Roxxxy Andrews to “Whip My Hair,” I ultimately passed due to both ladies dropping the words whilst competing to see whose wig would fall off first. That said, all through Season 5 we the audience were teased with a battle royale between Alyssa and her dearest frenemy Coco Montrese, and when the time finally came both women delivered. Alyssa threw every dance move in her vast repertoire on the stage (including a gorgeous spinning split leap). Coco worked the stage for all she was worth (including pointing to her mouth to show the judges she was nailing every word of the speed rap). It was a breathtaking performance that stands as a gold standard for a lip sync for your life.
So, gentle readers, what were your favorite Lip Syncs For Your Life? Let me know!
Before we go, a few quick words. First off, I will be trying to hop from screening party to screening party. So if you know of any that are showing the show, please let me know.
Second, as we gear up for the launch of the ninety-nine episode marathon, let us review the sartorial choices of Mother Ru on the runway (whist promoting her new song, available on iTunes *wink*)…
Finally, let us review this teaser for the first episode featuring some special guests…
– Violet: I like everything from the neck up. The dress is a little too 1980s for the rest of the outfit.
– Chad: Nailed it!
– Bebe: As Ru famously said in Season 1, “Know who you are and serve it up at all times!” Thankfully, our gal has taken that memo to heart. She looks fabulous!!
– Raja: A demure look for Raja (which is avant garde by everyone else’s standards).
– Sharon: Looking great but I’m not completely sold on the hair.
– Jinkx: I like the hair, and I like the dress, but I’m not sure that I like them together.
– Tyra: Not sold on the outfit, but I blame that on the lace bell bottoms.
– Bianca: I like the new silhouette, but… and for this bit, I need to do my Lady Bunny impersonation….(ahem)…. “Girl! That hair makes you look like Bernadette Peters’ prom night dumpster baby!”
Photo & Video Credits: Logo / World of Wonder