Play Live Radio
Next Up:
Available On Air Stations

#MemeOfTheWeek: Obama Sings The Weeknd, Sort Of

Last week, we highlighted the Internet's highjacking of the #StandWithRand selfie. It was an example, we pointed out, of the Internet being the place "where things go to go wrong."

We stand by that point, but this week we're highlighting a meme that you could say shows what's right about the Internet: the lip dub.

The latest #MemeOfTheWeek? President Obama, through the power of the Internet, singing The Weeknd's #1 hit, "Can't Feel My Face."

What Is A Lip Dub?

I mean, we don't really need to explain this one, do we? Urban Dictionary defines them as "home made music videos." Wikipedia says they're videos that "combine lip synching and audio dubbing to make a music videos."

For our purposes, we're looking at a specific type of lip dub. Famous people's words, pulled from multiple appearances or videos, set to music to recreate the lyrics of a song in time.

You've likely seen the most famous example of this type of lip dub: Brian Williams covering the Sugar Hill Gang Classic, "Rapper's Delight," courtesy of The Tonight Show with Jimmy Fallon.

Of course, there are other variants on the lip dub. Bad Lip Reading does things like make up entirely nonsensical words and melodies and set it to, say, Beyonce's performance at the last presidential inauguration. And there's , the wildly popular app that lets you make your own lip sync video set to music, or whatever audio you like.

Why Is This The #MemeOfTheWeek?

In large part, because it's what you could call a perma-meme. Every few months, it seems that there's another lip dub of a politician or someone famous, often President Obama. In the past, his words have been set to songs by Bruno Mars, Ariana Grande, Lady Gaga and Pitbull (feat. Hillary Clinton as Ke$ha).

There could be a few reasons for the appeal. The songs being lip dubbed are very popular already, so any variation on them is sure to garner clicks. But maybe more important is the feeling of seeing someone famous and powerful "sing" the same songs we normal folk know and love. Hearing the President of the United States sing a song that you've screamed at the top of your lungs in your car, or at least getting to imagine that for the length of a YouTube video, could be pretty fun.

Lip dubs of politicians reveal what, so often, politicians themselves cannot: Something close to a normal person, or at least a person that deals in the same pop culture that you and your friends do.

Were There Any Other Contenders This Week?

Yes, but none of them really caught on. Bobby Jindal tried his best to score some viral hits against Donald Trump, even making a mash-up video comparing Trump to Charlie Sheen, after Trump's multiple references to his own"winning." The video was largely panned.

Mexican broadcaster TV Azteca trolled Trump more successfully. They mashed up things he's said to hype Mexico's men's national soccer team, which plays the U.S. next month.

And of course, there was Hillary Clinton on The Ellen DeGeneres Show this week, trying her hand at the two dance crazes of the moment: the Whip and the Nae Nae. It was... not good. Even her husband Bill tweeted that she needs a little work.

Unlike last week's meme of the week, this one was a competition between politicians trying to be cool, not a roundup of who the Internet was the meanest to. And this week, President Obama won the cool politician contest in at least in one regard. Plus, he did it without even trying.

Copyright 2021 NPR. To see more, visit

Sam worked at Vermont Public Radio from October 1978 to September 2017 in various capacities – almost always involving audio engineering. He excels at sound engineering for live performances.
Sam Sanders
Sam Sanders is a correspondent and host of It's Been a Minute with Sam Sanders at NPR. In the show, Sanders engages with journalists, actors, musicians, and listeners to gain the kind of understanding about news and popular culture that can only be reached through conversation. The podcast releases two episodes each week: a "deep dive" interview on Tuesdays, as well as a Friday wrap of the week's news.