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'Drag Race's Latest Lip Sync Shows Two Styles Executed Perfectly

Heidi and Jackie lip sync

This is exactly what we keep coming back to the show to see.

*This post contains spoilers from the last episode of RuPaul's Drag Raceseason 12.

The last great lip sync -- where both competitors had stand-out performances -- on RuPaul's Drag Race was arguably last season. You remember the one: Brooke Lynn Hytes and Yvie Oddly, two of the season's strongest competitors, found themselves in the bottom facing off against one another. They pulled backbends, flips, reveals, and everything else they needed to in a presentation that resulted in a double "shantay, you stay." And while tonight's episode felt similar to that legendary moment, there was a distinct difference: the latest lip sync shows two different styles of performance.

As we all know, there are multiple ways to pull off a good lip sync performance. Some performers aim to emulate an actual musical performance. They pour their heart and emotions into it or punch it up with energetic dance moves -- many of which would not be possible if they also had to sing -- to make you feel the track in the way the original recording artist did. Of the most memorable performances in this vein, as noted by Sasha Velour in her Quibi show NightGowns, are those who in some way change how you hear the song. Think of Peppermint at the season 9 finale of Drag Race -- her two claps during Britney Spears' "Stronger" brought out a detail of the music that many hadn't heard before. There are many more exaggerated examples, but sometimes the performance is truly in the details. There is also another style of performance that can prove just as powerful, and just as moving -- if but in a different direction. Welcome to the comedic lip sync.

Comedy has long been a part of drag performance -- as long as almost any other type honestly. And while there's certainly a strain that can be of the slapstick, low-hanging fruit variety, at its best, it can also be heartfelt and reveal something about the lyrics, the audience, or the performer. Think of Manila Luzon and her facial expressiveness while performing "MacArthur Park." Tom Fitzgerald and Lorenzo Marquez do a pretty amazing job covering the history of lip syncs in their book Legendary Children: The First Decade of RuPaul's Drag Race and the Last Century of Queer Life and cover both of these types of performance.

Drag Race's latest lip sync for your life shows both of these lineages of performance as valid. While Heidi Aphrodite (nee N. Closet) gives us a performance of "Kill the Lights" from her heart that even Alex Newell would be proud of, Jackie Cox gave us something just as heartfelt, but from a different perspective. Taking the song and turning into a "crazy lady" who is so blinded by her desire for a man that she doesn't realize how manic her actions are, she gave the judges more than a few chuckles, and provided the audience with a show -- this was no doubt something to be proud of as well.

"She was full Gilda Radner," Michelle Visage told Ru of Cox as the performance came to a close, referencing an iconic comedic actress. Radner was notably one of the original members of Saturday Night Live. And the comment was true.

This is where Drag Race shines: when the show is able to show different types of drag as valid and deserving of attention. Whether it be the spooky drag of Sharon Needles, the pageant glamour of Trinity the Tuck, the female impersonation of Jaida Essence Hall, the creative cooky-ness of Crystal Methyd, or the aesthetics-focused appeal of Violet Chachki, there is a space for it all. Given this, it is a wonder that the show's main problem is that it refuses to continue to expand this wide ranging appreciation by welcoming trans performers presenting as they are on the show, as well as bio queens and drag kings in ways that aren't mired in controversy. (For some the inclusion of Sonique in a holiday special, and Gia Gunn in All Starshave their own criticisms.)

Using this now-global platform to praise these other just-as-valid forms of performance would only strengthen the show's status as not only one of the most diverse shows on television, but one of the most uplifting. Until then, I guess we'll have to make due with this lip sync.

RELATED | 7 'Drag Race' Lip Syncs That Prove You Don't Need Stunts and Reveals

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