Death to the lip dub

I got a short email today pointing to “a pretty cool video on YouTube”: students from UQAM doing a lip dub to the Black Eyed Peas’ I Gotta Feeling (a song also responsible for the wiping of all meaning from the term “flash mob”).

My response: sigh.

For those of you unaware of this concept, it all began (or, at least, it grew online fame) with an iconic video by the staff at Connected Ventures (they’re the people behind College Humor, BustedTees and other young, hip online properties). It starts off with a young woman (Amanda Ferri) pressing play on her iPod, and then follows as a bunch of people, one after the other, lip sync to Harvey Danger’s Flagpole Sitta:

The music cuts out at the end to reveal the staff singing the end of the song a capella. The video is well done, well choreographed (you notice it’s done entirely in one take) and creative, but despite all the planning that went into it you get the sense that everyone had lots of fun making it.

Ferri uploaded the video to Vimeo on April 20, 2007, and it has since been seen about 2 million times, not including all the views on the College Humor site and elsewhere. (There’s even a making-of.) That’s far more than is needed to be branded viral (and certainly a lot for a 2007 video on a non-YouTube site).

For some reason, rather than simply admiring the video for its creativity and entertainment value, some people decided they wanted to create their own versions. The first such video I saw was done by Hochschule Furtwangen University last year. It was more professional, and clearly involved a lot more planning than some drunk college kids bored after work. But despite picking a different song, it was still the same concept.

Earlier this year saw the first such video produced in Quebec, by students at HEC (at least according to Dominic Arpin, who tracks these kinds of things). I thought it was cute, but the fact that it basically copied the same routine (albeit with a different song and a different cast) kind of bothered me. HEC followed with another one. There was one by Buzz Image Group (jazzed up with some special effects), and another by Sacré Coeur Hospital. Hipsters around the world have copied the concept.

It’s not even that many copied the original idea, they copied the original script. Many copied it exactly, from the single person with headphones to the crowd singing at the end with no music (all in one take). It’s as if they were prohibited from making any changes to that formula.

The result is something that, while no doubt incredibly fun to produce, lacks any originality. And without that spark of wow-this-is-cool, the videos become little more than a bunch of kids mouthing the words to a pop song one at a time. And lip syncing by itself is not fun to watch.

So please, to those people considering doing something like this: Put some of that energy and talent into coming up with something new.

Don’t expect me to be impressed by a bad copy of something someone else has already done, any more than I should be impressed with Wipeout Québec or the new Melrose Place.

UPDATE: Dominic Arpin, Patrick Lagacé and others seem to love them still, so maybe I’m out on a limb here. So be it. I’m not preventing anyone else from enjoying these videos.

UPDATE (Sept. 22): Global National, which apparently has run out of real news to cover, also sent a reporter to cover this.

30 thoughts on “Death to the lip dub

      1. Shawn

        On that point, you can’t help but feel hopeful that Francophone university kids don’t care that it’s an English song. That in itself is a riposte to all the hatemongers who demonize the very language of English. We’ve seen plenty of that here in these comment pages.

        Whether its Tehran or Montreal, more kids are now defining themselves in ways that transcend cultural and geographical borders. For every kid marching under a Jeunes Patriotes war banner, wet-dreaming about re-fighting centuries-old battles, I’m betting there’s a thousand kids like this.

        1. Fagstein Post author

          But that cultural transcendence works both ways. How else am I going to be exposed to Moldovan pop songs?

          It’s a minor point, of course, but if I wanted to see someone badly lip syncing to a popular song, I’d watch the song’s official video.

  1. Paul Hector

    “Don’t expect me to be impressed by a bad copy of something someone else has already done”.

    Sure, Mr. Fagstein. Considering that you’re the primary resource for judging, deciding, approving and disseminating what’s cool and what’s not on the world wide web.

    Dedicating an entire post full of links, facts and references to criticize something done by bunch of kids during a moment of unpretentious fun must certainly make you feel better about the fact that you’re a fat geek loser.

    Get a fucking life.

    1. Fagstein Post author

      Actually, I like being a fat geek loser. I don’t need to feel better about it.

      And I’m happy with my non-life as it is currently. But thanks for your suggestion.

  2. Michaël

    God Lord Faggotstein! They were just making it for fun. Now YOU try to do something half that interresting. Stop bringing down other people’s work to bring you up and get a fucking life Mr. Angry-Anglo!

    1. Fagstein Post author

      Ooh, “Faggotstein”. You must be university educated to come up with that one.

      I don’t think it was that interesting, honestly. It clearly took a lot of hard work and choreography, but nothing in that video piqued my interest.

      Now, if the people who did this video had fun (and it looks like they did), then good for them. I’m not here to stop people from doing stuff they enjoy. Just don’t expect me to be impressed by it.

      1. BruB

        I disagree with Fagstein 1 out of 2 subjects. In this case, I kind of agree since I’m not really interested by Lipdubs, but never really did.
        But there is no need to insult the man because he’s sharing is opinion. find a counter argument but don’t insult.

  3. Joe

    “Don’t expect me to be impressed by a bad copy of something someone else has already done, any more than I should be impressed with Wipeout Québec or the new Melrose Place.”

    Really? REALLY?
    This was your Kanye post Fagstein.

  4. Corinthian Rick

    I was very impressed by it. I’m a little surprised they couldn’t find a French song to do as well, maybe one that they themselves penned. I’m not crazy about that song in the first place, I think it’s a little hidden anti Semitic.

  5. Shawn

    Speaking as an Older Guy, maybe there’s a bit of an age thing here. Steve, I think you’re close enough to their age to judge that a little more critically, as peers do. I have a 19 year old nephew who’s incredibly judgmental and concerned about what’s cool. One loses that with time, I think. Okay, time for my nap.

  6. Nick Perusse

    I don’t really see a problem with these vids. In fact, I find them quite entertaining. The fact that the source material is not original is a criticism you could also level at any production of a shakespeare play. What makes the production different is the way they use the material. In a play, the direction, the acting, the sets, etc. While I am neither trying to compare the Black Eyed Peas to Shakespeare or the kids in this video to good actors, I think it’s moderately creative fun, and there’s absolutely no reason people shouldn’t have a good time producing and watching these vids!

    1. Fagstein Post author

      This is actually a very interesting point. My issue isn’t so much that the source material is not original, it’s that the production isn’t. I’ve just never quite understood why people try to perform their own versions of viral videos without adding any “own” to it. A video of someone lip syncing isn’t Shakespeare. And even Shakespearean actors try to put a little bit of their personality into their performances.

      1. Nick Perusse

        Fair enough. I think they put a bit of their own spin on things with the costumes and whatnot, but I’m certainly not trying to say this is high art. Harmless fun, though, certainly.

  7. Vahan

    Isn’t Montreal a great place to live? Now our next step is to push all the politicians and radicals off the island and into the water so they could float away with the rest of the shit. This is promising for the future of our province. This is my city Franglais, or Frenglish.

  8. Michael J.

    I’m not a fan of the song, but I give them credit for the amount of organization and logistics involved to pull off a single-shot video like that.

    I’m a bit shocked that some of the posters above have decided to personally insult Mr Fagstein just because he called it for what it is: Not Original. Do something that hasn’t been done widely before or introduces an original take on the concept besides location and then you can get credit for being original. I think some people need to grow up and learn to accept proper criticism. Throwing insults instead of offering a rebuttal just makes you look childish.

    Now one issue that hasn’t been brought up with the lipdubs is copyright infringement. How long before the video gets muted or removed from Youtube?

  9. Joe

    CNN and CBC’s The National have also ran reports on this video. The strange thing is that CBC didn’t mention that it wasn’t an original idea. CNN might have (I don’t quite remember).

    1. Fagstein Post author

      CNN’s story made a passing reference to this being a type of video that is popular online, but then seemed amazed that it was performed in one take (as all the other videos are).

      1. paul

        i was i little confused seems like the new video from montreal invented the lipdub but there are so many other great lipdub an a lot who are also better than this one. but you cant expect from CNN that they do some good journalism..

  10. K

    People have been doing one-take motion pictures since motion picture cameras were invented. After over a century, it’s a bit late to be complaining about a lack of “originality”. Even as far as music videos go — there were enough one-take music videos in the 1980s alone to make claiming an “original” from 2007 preposterous. Those 1980s videos weren’t the first either.

    Someone above mentioned Shakespeare. Perhaps it would be a good idea to recall that in Shakespeare’s time it wasn’t about being original, but about being *good*.

    1. Mendes

      The Russian Ark (2002) is an example of a film with only one take.

      2000 Actors. 300 years of Russian History. 33 Rooms at the Hermitage Museum. 3 Live Orchestras. 1 Single Continuous Shot. 1h 37m.

  11. Mendes

    There’s something original in this video: try to find Waldo!
    He’s in more than one place. I’ve only notice that the second time i saw the video.
    He’s, at least, in three places.

  12. Tanya Bailey

    Fagstein, in your research of these types of Lipdubs do you happen to visite the web cite “”? This explains why schools all over the world are creating videos like this. we want to promote the fun acpects of our schools.


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