Talk about popular: Lip Sync is 49 Shades of fun
By Lana Sweeten-Shults
GCU News Bureau
Students delivered more than just lip service Thursday night at GCU Arena.
They gabbed about boy bands, Disney movies, women’s empowerment – and yes, showed their love for gorilla Harambe – to tunes by Justin Bieber, the Jackson Five, Shania Twain and the like as part of the frenetically popular, Canyon Activities Board-organized Lip Sync competition.
Of the eight teams that competed, one emerged victorious, via crowd voting by text – 49 Shades of Purple, which delivered a humorous take on “50 Shades of Grey,” complete with Chewbacca Mom masks.
Also making the top three were the Hip Hop Club, which wowed the crowd with its dancing (including a Latin routine), and the Dream Team, whose time on stage started with Jay-Z’s “Hard Knock Life” and included Flo Rida’s hit “Right Round” with the image of a fidget spinner on the video screen.
It was a sweet win for 49 Shades of Purple, made up mostly of seniors who saw the competition as one of their last big hurrahs on campus before graduation.
“We did it last year,” said Christian studies senior Caleb Raney, captain of the team. “These are some of my best friends.”
Raney said the team “decided we wanted to create something that was more about having fun.”
The estimated crowd of 6,000 in the Arena, their energy pumped up by chest-pounding music, laser lights, videos, confetti and, of course, free T-shirts thrown into the stands, cheered to the 49 Shades of Purple routine, dappled with pop culture references to, not just Chewbacca Mom, but the film “Magic Mike.”
“We’re definitely going to mix it up with sexy dancing,” Raney said backstage before the team’s performance. “But we’re doing it jokingly.”
The routine even included a tribute to GCU as Raney donned a jacket, taking on the persona of University President Brian Mueller, and lip synced to Guns N’ Roses’ “Paradise City,” replacing the lyrics “Take me down to Paradise City” with “Take me down to Grand Canyon University.”
Raney said that when you’re new to campus, things often can be mostly about yourself. But as seniors, “We know everybody on campus and how awesome this campus is. … No matter who wins, I’ll have multiple friends at the end.”
49 Shades of Purple competed against 13 other teams in auditions to make the Lip Sync stage Thursday (here’s a slideshow). Making the final eight, besides 49 Shades of Purple, the Dream Team and the Hip Hop Club were Disney Dude and Divas, No Direction, Harambaes, J.C. and the Boys and D.R.E.A.M. Club. Like the other teams, they had to make an intro video and promo video to go with their performances.
“We looked at originality, creativity,” said Lip Sync host and CAB member Caleb Duarte, who donned his formal host attire, a white jacket and black trousers, during the competition. “… We try to stay away from the political side of things, for obvious reasons.”
Last year’s winning team, the Harambaes, returned to the Lip Sync stage with a familiar theme. The team told the audience it kept looking for the next great meme but that there’s no greater meme than Harambe.
The team of 11 performers danced to Journey’s “Don’t Stop Believin’” and images of Harambe, ending their routine with a photo of Mueller next to one of Harambe.
Marko Susnjara of the Harambaes said, “Last year, we got together as a joke. We just wanted to make people laugh.”
This time around, the team spent about two months trying to top last year’s Lip Sync-winning performance.
“From the beginning, we wanted to try to be better,” Susnjara said of this year’s follow-up. “It was a lot to live up to.”
Freshman theater major Alexandra Empey was backstage getting warmed up for her performance with the D.R.E.A.M. Club, an organization that promotes sisterhood, “sassy majorette dancing,” fitness and higher education.
“When I heard about D.R.E.A.M. Club, I really wanted to dance,” Empey said. The club has performed at past Lip Syncs, and its highly choreographed routine this time around centered on the empowerment of women.
Karley MacArthur, a junior Christian studies major, was dressed as “Beauty and Beast’s” Belle for her performance with Disney Dude and Divas.
She was a last-minute addition to the team, which had about a week to finalize their routine.
MacArthur said she grew up performing in musicals.
“I’ve always wanted to do Lip Sync because I love performing,” she said, adding, “I just love the high energy of everyone. It’s just a great show. A lot of people’s friends are in the show.”
Duarte said what makes Lip Sync so popular is that it’s different from any other activity on campus.
“It allows performances you typically don’t see. It’s a real break from college. The aroma and the ambiance are so over the top,” he said.
GCU alumna Keila Cota, who graduated from GCU last year, returned to campus to cheer on three of her friends.
She said Lip Sync is such a highlight in the school year, “just because that’s when you see so many people coming together. … It’s just a lot of fun.”
The Harambaes’ Susnjara said, “To me, it’s the quintessential college experience.”
Contact GCU senior writer Lana Sweeten-Shults at (602) 639-7901 or firstname.lastname@example.org. Follow her on Twitter @LanaSweetenShul.