Lip-syncing like the stars


Jennifer Lopez has done it. So have Rihanna, Khloé Kardashian, Reese Witherspoon, Cara Delevingne, Hugh Jackman and Josh Groban—some of them to hilarious effect.

Each of these celebrities has used the app Dubsmash, which lets people make short selfie videos on their smartphones, where they lip sync to a soundtrack taken from a popular movie, television show, song or online meme. The videos can then be shared on Instagram, Facebook or other social media.

CIR SMARTPHONE APPS 3 A screenshot of Raquel Laranjo, a special effects makeup artist, mimics Freddie Mercury while singing a Queen song during a recording done with the Dubsmash app

The app has become a cultural phenomenon, with more than 75 million downloads around the world and a crowd of celebrity users, including athletes like the NBA star Stephen Curry. Dubsmash taps into the trends of sharing personal moments publicly and using more than just text to chat with friends in private messages. It plays to the same sense of lightheartedness and social media-powered fun that has popularised TV shows like “Lip Sync Battle”.

Dubsmash’s success so far has surprised even the app’s makers. “The celebrity thing is actually completely organic,” said Suchit Dash, president of Dubsmash, which is based in Berlin. “We’ve done zero outreach.” The app, free on iOS and Android, was introduced by Roland Grenke, Jonas Druppel and Daniel Taschik in November 2014 and quickly caught on. Last August, the company announced it had raised $5.5 million in funding from venture capitalists.

CIR SMARTPHONE APPS 1 A screenshot of Eric Bruce and his son during a recording done with the Dubsmash app

Dash says people have probably gravitated to Dubsmash because of the app’s combination of audio and video, as well as a host of features that make it less daunting—and thus more enticing—to record a video. For one, Dubsmash provides pre-recorded audio, which means people don’t have to hear their own voice on a video—a feature that might appeal to those who would otherwise shy away from sharing a selfie video online. And the brief, self-contained soundtracks on Dubsmash give each newly recorded video a built-in beginning, middle and end.

“Putting a camera in somebody’s face and recording a permanent video is really hard to do,” Dash said. The app’s various features are aimed at “getting people over the hump to use video, which is a much richer way of communicating”.

Today, the Dubsmash platform creates about 35 videos a second—about double the rate of YouTube, Dash said. But for most users, using Dubsmash is not about posting videos for anyone and everyone to see. About 90 per cent of the videos are shared privately, Dash said. “It’s really people looking for a richer way to express what they actually feel at the moment.”

It also flows into the growing number of other visual 
tools that people can use to express themselves, including GIFs, emojis, live streaming video, short recorded video and stickers.


People are even integrating Dubsmash videos into their everyday conversations. Two of my friends recently used a funny Dubsmash video exchange to get out of a difficult argument that they had been having on Facebook, and ended up laughing at each other’s efforts instead of fighting. Raquel Laranjo, a special-effects makeup artist, uses Dubsmash to showcase her celebrity likenesses, posting on Instagram recreations of stars including Michael Jackson, Freddie Mercury and, most recently, Prince.

Dash says his favourite Dubsmash videos come from a father in Minneapolis, Eric Bruce, who has been called Dubsmash Dad. The Dubsmash videos he made with his infant son, Jack, were intended to amuse and reassure his wife that everything was okay at home while she was at work. The videos went viral.

“A short video of Jack and I might just make my wife homesick, but a Dubsmash of us ‘singing’ together could make her happy, and maybe relieve some of that stress of returning to work or being away,” Bruce said. “We never video-messaged before Dubsmash. It didn’t really make sense to.”

Bruce “wasn’t really a celebrity, but it was really showing the power of the app,” Dash said.

Dash added that Dubsmash has not “done, like, much to change the world or anything like that”. What it has done, he said, is “enable people to be funny really fast”.

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