How Does RuPaul Pick the Lip Sync Songs for ‘RuPaul’s Drag Race’?

It doesn’t matter if the contestant has charisma, uniqueness, nerve, and talent. When you land in the bottom two, it all comes down to how well they can lip-sync. What determines the lip-sync songs on this reality competition series? Here’s what we know about RuPaul’s Drag Race and its iconic ‘lip-sync for your life’ moment.

‘Drag Race’ fans love an iconic lip sync moment

For Drag Race fans, a few lip syncs, in particular, stand out. Of course, there’s Sasha Velour and Shea Couleé’s portrayal of “So Emotional.” Alyssa Edwards and Roxxxy Andrews rocking out to “Whip My Hair” also drew a lot of attention. 

In part, it’s the talent of the queen that makes their performance so iconic, but the song behind the divas is just as important. Unfortunately, the exact criteria used by World of Wonder and RuPaul is still unclear, but we have a few ideas as to how the lip syncs are chosen.

Director RuPaul speaks onstage during a news conference for "RuPaul's Drag Race Live!"
Director RuPaul speaks onstage during a news conference for “RuPaul’s Drag Race Live!” | Ethan Miller/Getty Images

How does RuPaul pick the lip-sync songs for ‘RuPaul’s Drag Race?’

A large portion of how the songs are selected has to do with the copyright laws and what RuPaul has the clearance to use. Oftentimes, the song of the week matches the runway or challenge theme. Most recently, for the season 12 episode where the category was “the color purple,” a Prince song was used in the lip-sync performance of the bottom two.

Some of the songs are selected because of the guest judge that week. When Demi Lovato appeared as a celebrity judge for season 7, the lip-sync song was “I Really Don’t Care.” When the B-52s paid a visit to the reality competition series, the lip-sync song was “Love Shack.” When Nicki Minaj appeared on the premiere of season 12, the queens lip-synced to “Starships.

The queens listen to their lip-sync songs on iPods

The queens do, in fact, get the lip-sync song for each week beforehand. If you’ve ever watched Untucked, you’ve probably seen the bottom contestants listening to iPods. Because they can’t use their phones, that’s how they receive the music for each “lip-sync for your life” moment.

According to The Tab, “each contestant gets an iPod at the beginning with all the possible songs they might need to lipsync, they find out the song of the night the day before.” From there, anything goes, from wig ru-veals to hidden rose petals to sliding and breaking one of the lightbulbs on the stage. 

Fans of this reality competition series have seen it all, and yet there’s plenty more to come. That’s thanks to RuPaul’s Drag Race: All-Stars 5 and the upcoming spinoff show, Canada’s Drag Race. New episodes of RuPaul’s Drag Race: All-Stars premiere on a weekly basis on VH1.

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