“He can’t keep getting away with it.”
“Your videos make me feel unsafe.”
“How do you respond to the allegations?”
These are just a few of the comments on the TikTok account Mr. Clutch (@mrclutchwill). What has this person done to elicit such a visceral response?
Just lip-syncing, actually.
Lip-syncing defined TikTok early on: It was the sole function of its predecessor, Musical.ly. TikTok “stars” were created by simply lip-syncing and dancing (and being attractive). But five years after TikTok’s debut, this type of performance has evolved into something more abstract.
North West has certainly leveled up the form into weirder territory, and comedian Sarah Cooper’s meteoric rise circa 2020 came from lip-syncing then-President Trump’s speeches and soundbites. But in the last couple of years, as way too many other topics dominated TikTok, creators have been experimenting with the form.
After exploring JasperTok last month, @mrclutchwill started haunting my FYP. He’s a barrel-chested young man who uses eye color and makeup filters to alter his appearance. His videos typically follow the same plot points: a front-facing shot where he lip-syncs, but slightly out of sync with the track, and then a full-body shot where he dramatically turns around. He then usually walks off camera.
Nothing about his movement is natural, and people are now parodying him.
@mrclutchwill Replying to @kobyabc ♬ Berry Pie – Dolly Parton
He has more than 190,000 followers, and the comment section is where the account gets even weirder. The majority of his lip-sync videos are in response to comments about his unsettling appearance and vibe. Another sampling: “Are you AI generated?”; “my sister calls u doll man”; “Paralyzing content my guy, truly horrific.”
@mrclutchwill Replying to @liquid_noah ♬ Berry Pie – Dolly Parton
Whenever people ask if he’s actually singing in the TikToks, he usually replies, “No just lip sinking actually.”
@tony_dags Lets do human things together @mrclutchwill ♬ Heaven Knows I'm Miserable Now (2011 Remaster) – The Smiths
The account @unironiclipsyncvideos, which has more than 77,000 followers, does something similar, but has been doing it longer than @mrclutchwill. He typically has the same execution: a close-up of his face, then a full-body shot, and he usually ends the video by looking off-screen. His vibe is a little more chill, and commenters seem more fascinated than scared. (“Uncanny valley” is a frequent comment.)
Creator @mikeyyk88 has more than 300,000 followers and has developed a following using what appears to be a common thread here: intense eye contact. He’s also known for tearing up, which appears to elicit an emotional response from viewers. (“I’m sorry” is a recurring comment.) While he does songs, he’s more known for interpreting familiar sounds, which is its own trend on TikTok.
A 2022 TikTok, in which he mimics the FaceTime sound, has more than 15 million views.
These videos fall in the “Another tough watch” category; they’re an evolution of TikTok cringe, but the audience (and creator) fully embrace it.
While it started as a recurring comment, it’s become a subgenre on TikTok, with associated creators known for tough watches (or hard watches, or rough watches). Many TikToks in the tough-watch category rely on painful dialogue and interactions, but these lip-sync accounts manage to elicit fear, sadness, and curiosity without words. And more creators are copying Mr. Clutch, specifically.
“Another has breached containment,” said a commenter on a recent TikTok from @themanofthehour0, whose account is (so far) dedicated to mimicking Mr. Clutch.
@themanofthehour0 @mrclutchwilliam ♬ Berry Pie – Dolly Parton
And there are also variations on the form now, where lip-syncing isn’t necessarily part of it, just vibes.
Making a pit stop♬ You Tear Me Apart – Dev Lemons