When Javier Cáceres walks the halls of Shorewood High School, he is greeted as a rock star, a conquering hero … the guy who engineered the defending blow against Seattle rival Shorecrest.
This aggressive defense didn’t occur on the gridiron, or even at the math Olympics, but in front of the entire nation on YouTube. Earlier this year, Shorecrest issued a bold challenge to its archrivals in the form of a massively multi-performer, lip-sync video done in a single, unedited take, what’s known on the InterWebs as a “lip dub.”
Produced by the school’s video class, Shorecrest served Shorewood to the tune of possibly the greatest song of the Aughts, OutKast’s “Hey Ya!”
Shorewood responded by popping open a can of “Hall & Oates” whoop-ass; its own lip dub set to the '70s hit “You Make My Dreams Come True.” Under the direction of Cáceres and Marty Ballew’s Video Production 1 class, they filmed it all in one take per the rules.
And they did it completely in reverse.
Now, with YouTube views rolling into the tens of thousands, not to mention Twitter competition commentary from Shorecrest alum Rainn Wilson (Dwight Schrute on “The Office”), the two schools may well be responsible for one of the first Internet memes of 2010.
No, not the lip-dub videos. That meme is way old. If you’re not familiar with lib dubs, don’t feel bad. Neither was Shorecrest video teacher Trent Mitchell when his students suggested the pop culture genre as a class assignment.
Ever since the “Flagpole Sitta” office lip dub, directed by Vimeo cofounder Jakob Lodwick, hit the Web in 2007 (an epoch in Internet years), YouTube has been lousy with the trend.
Before the Shorecrest/Shorewood rivalry took it to the next level, lip-dub videos were clumped in the technorati consciousness as the foolishness of the overprivileged/Ivy League Internet startup set.
Eye-rolling disdain for the lip-dub trend hit critical mass last year when the bloodthirsty blogosphere clamped onto an allegedly leaked viral video exhibiting the tomfoolery of a bunch of Silicon Alley 20-somethings lip-syncing Journey’s “Don’t Stop Believing.”
Filmed at a palatial Mediterranean vacation home, the video went viral right around the time the economy started to tank. It was enough to make a nauseated Web addict never want to see a lip dub again.
In two fell swoops, Shorecrest and Shorewood have returned “spontaneity, authenticity, participation and fun” to the medium. These are the hallmarks of a great lip-dub video, according media blogger Tom Johnson’s ubiquitous (and Wikipedia-d) description.
SPOILER ALERT: If you haven’t seen the videos, watch them now, then come back and we’ll talk about some of the most awesome parts listed by time code:
0:01 Guy in black tie and blazer pops out of recycling dumpster to lip sync song’s countdown, “1, 2, 3, unh!” Keep an eye out, he’ll circle around to pick up lip-sync duties a couple more times before it’s over.
0:19 Mighty Morphin' Power Ranger and dude doing a backflip!
0:48 Dancing administrator?
0:57 Return of dumpster dude, with “Peanut Butter Jelly” guy in banana suit, riding in a wheelchair! (What’s that about?)
1:28 Female student seems to blush when scooped into arms of tall, handsome male student.
1:47: SteadiCam is locked in the steely stare of shimmying student. (This guy is awesome!)
2:08: Grim Reaper in a hoodie!
2:52: Per song's lyrics, student agrees to lend sugar to neighbor. Well played.
3:03 Again, per song lyrics, obligatory shaking of Polaroid pictures. (Yes, Polaroid, we know, you’re not really supposed to “shake” them. It’s a song! Get over it.)
Bonus points: Song selection (you can’t go wrong with “Hey Ya!”), shooting 200-plus students through school halls under the radar, student Kollin O’Dannel’s silky-smooth SteadiCam work, and of course, doing it first! Also, this shoutout from Rainn Wilson on Twitter:
"Shorecrest HS was nothing like this when I walked the halls! Brilliant! (Oh, and Shorewood sucks!)”
0:21 Human pyramid rises from pile of collapsed students. (Remember, this was filmed, and then shown, in reverse.)
0:43 Money from the air flies neatly into the pocket of Donald Trumpish-looking student in a suit as administrators and students throw paper airplanes in the background, one grown up working an E.T. puppet. (Again, what’s that about?).
1:06 “Jmus” calls out his Flickr account via wall mural.
1:17 Entire class jumps backward from floor to chairs.
1:22 Take THAT, Rainn Wilson!
2:06 Swim team in Speedos, including one guy wearing a chicken mask.
2:15 Reverse head-banger dude at the lockers, the natural habitat of head bangers.
2:21: Reverse guitar solo, more “Cobain” than “Oates.” (Well, it is the Pacific Northwest.)
3:02: SteadiCam swings around to director Cáceres who, wearing a crown of balloons, briefly takes on lip-sync duties
3:27: Lip syncer passes through the school’s juggling corps. (Why didn’t my high school have a juggling corps?!)
Bonus points: Did you know that if you simply sing words in reverse, your mouth won’t match the words, making your video look like a badly dubbed Godzilla movie? Cáceres spent hours filming himself singing “You Make My Dreams Come True” in reverse, adjusting the lyrics phonetically so they’d sync when played backwards. Song choice is homage to a scene in the movie “500 Days of Summer” where that golden oldie is used.
Administrator participation is also a bonus here, and props to whomever cleaned up that copious amount of paper airplanes, confetti and other detritus liberally tossed throughout. Plus, they filmed it COMPLETELY IN REVERSE!
In the end, even rival alum Rainn Wilson gave Shorewood begrudging props, posting a link to the new video in this Twitter post: “Ok, it's on. Shorewood (idiot losers) have issued a video response to Shorecrest's awesome 'Hey Ya!' vid — u decide”
As far as Technotica is concerned, everybody wins, especially the future. These digital natives (albeit with a generous school budget), did some amazing work that serves as a much-needed palate cleanser to the "sexting" and cyberbullying rhetoric we usually hear about tech-savvy teens.
Sure there’s some less-than-classy smack talk going both ways in the YouTube comments. Both teachers Mitchell and Ballew (friends since 5th grade!) assure that both classes of video competitors treat each other with the respect — as one would a worthy adversary.
This comes through in the videos, which feature students from all high school subcultures, looking and behaving the way real kids do (as opposed to the “High School Musical” model).
“This is the highlight of my high school career,” says Cáceres. “I can’t see anything topping this.”
Meanwhile, there are lots of other high schools out there willing to try. Schools across the country have contacted both video production teachers, asking for tips to produce similar lip-dub smackdowns in their own districts.
Expect to see a lot of this in 2010, when high school rivalries will no longer take place only on the football field, but in the AV room as well. It will be awesome.
Friend Helen A.S. Popkin on or follow her on , and kick up some spontaneity, authenticity, participation and fun.