The treat we all know and love at the end of each episode of RuPaul’s Drag Race is the lip sync. It’s what the entire episode builds up to – and each one is different.
One song may benefit from energetic choreography, drops and stunts, while another might require the performer to embody the deep emotion and sentiment of the track.
These performances have made for a catalogue of iconic moments, set precedents for performers everywhere (thank you, Roxxy Andrews and Sasha Velour) and, in some cases have changed how hundreds of thousands of us listen to these songs – for better or for worse.
But out of the hundreds of lip-syncs the show has provided us with, which ones have redefined the song being performed?
1) MacArthur Park (Season 3)
Donna Summer’s 1978 cover of the Richard Harris tune reached #1 in the US and landed Summer her first Grammy nomination, but all we think about when we hear the song is Manilla Luzon’s crazed crossed eyes. Reflecting the song’s trajectory from sobering piano ballad to disco thumper with an Oscar-worthy performance, Luzon made Delta Work (and the bracelet she was trying to pass off as a cake) seem invisible on the stage.
2) You Make Me Feel Like (A Natural Woman) (Season 4)
There can be a number of different dynamics during a lip-synch: sometimes performers match each other’s energy (or lack thereof – we still haven’t forgiven you Vivienne Pinay and Honey Mahogany) and sometimes the difference is strewn out across the stage.
Case in point: a pregnant (and slightly frenzied) Kenya Michaels spinning, splitting and slipping off her wig around a poignant Latrice Royale to an Aretha Franklin soul classic.
The disgusted faces of Ru, Santino, Jennifer Love Hewitt and the rightful winner, Royale, plague our minds whenever the song plays.
3) Cold Hearted (Season 5)
Aside from Rolaskatox vs. Jinkx Monsoon, the Coco Montrese vs. Alyssa Edwards feud was one of the biggest storylines of what is arguably one of the best series of Drag Race.
Throughout the season, their fallout provided us with legendary quotes and impassioned challenge performances, so when the two were set to dual to a scorching Paula Abdul number, everything was at stake – especially because they’d both found themselves in the bottom before.
Montrese memorably ended Edwards’ run with two vices: flailing bell sleeves and a spot-on lip-synch that we all (try to) emulate when we hit the tricky bridge of the song.
4) And I Am Telling You I’m Not Going (Season 8)
Although it’s a Dreamgirls staple, the late Chi Chi DeVayne breathed new fire into the Jennifer Holliday smash with a broken beaded gown, a monochromatic beat and a point to prove.
Certifying her status as the series’ lip-sync assassin, even her opponent Thorgy Thor had to hand it to DeVayne – whose delivery left RuPaul’s jaw on the floor – by the end of the lip-sync. This. Is. Art.
5) Shut Up And Drive (All Stars 2)
While the music video for Rihanna’s follow-up single to ‘Umbrella’ is cute, the visual of Tatianna and Alyssa Edwards synonymously hitting the floor (in ying and yang ensembles) to the same beat of the song is drop-dead gorgeous.
Both eliminated series favourites, the opportunity to return to the competition (and the chance to eliminate series villain Phi Phi O’Hara) clearly lit a fire under both of their leotards. We have every move – the spins, the drops, Tatianna’s ‘gangster lean’ – etched into our memory forever more.
6) Greedy (Season 9)
From a top-tier lip sync to an infamous one, this 2016 Ariana Grande album track will forever be associated with seven words: “I’d like to keep it on please.”
It’s a shame because the song deserves two performers to give it their all (which Nina Bonina Brown did), but Valentina’s mask-gate means the intro to the song – which we had to listen to twice when RuPaul herself demanded for the battle to restart – will always give us the shivers.
7) So Emotional (Season 9)
The impact of Sasha Velour’s performance of this Whitney banger will be studied for literally decades.
Alongside Peppermint, she entered the finale as an underdog but managed to cleverly pull the attention away from fan-favourite Shea Couleé with a few secrets up her sleeve (and under her wig, too).
We’ll never be able to look at a rose the same way again (and we know Shea won’t, either).
8) Sorry Not Sorry (Season 11)
Is this Demi Lovato’s best song? Absolutely. Did Yvie Oddly and Brooke Lynn Hytes’ gymnastics face-off help us make that decision? It absolutely did.
Look at rankings of Drag Race lip-syncs all over the internet, and alongside ‘Shut Up And Drive’ you’ll always find ‘Sorry Not Sorry’ – and for good reason. They might have both flopped the Snatch Game, but getting this performance out of it made it worth it (although Celine Dion and Whoopi Goldberg may have something to say about that).
9) Physical (All Stars 6)
Welcoming Trinity K. Bonet back to our screens after seven years was one of the best things about All Stars 6, but there was another queen from season 6 whose return we didn’t know we needed until it happened: Laganja Estranja.
Dua Lipa’s ’80s-inspired workout jam hadn’t even begun when assassin Estranja pounded the floor the first time, and it was a sign of all the amazing things to come.
Since Lipa’s live performances of the song at the time of its release were limited due to the pandemic, we’ll take Estranja’s flexible stunts and strip-tease (which included assaulting Silky Nutmeg Ganache with a jacket) as its official first performance.
10) Stupid Love (All Stars 6)
Unless you’re Silky Nutmeg Ganache during Barbie Girl, solo lip-syncs are never usually as good as when you have two queens battling it out for a spot in the competition.
Solo lip-syncs have become a hallmark of the Drag Race finale, and while they have a track record of being on the more… boring side, Kylie Sonique Love changed that with her accidental stunt during a performance of Gaga’s ‘Stupid Love’.
Not only was her roly-poly in a gown elegant, but it nabbed her the crown over Ra’Jah O’Hara, Eureka and Ginger Minj. We’re just thankful that she still has teeth.