Lip Sync Herstory: 5 Things You Didn't Know About Prince's '1999'

Prince
Michael Montfort/Michael Ochs Archives/Getty Images

Prince performs live at the Fabulous Forum on February 19, 1985 in Inglewood, California.

The competition on season 12 of RuPaul’s Drag Race is getting down to the wire, and the remaining queens are doing everything they can to show their judges why they deserve to be in the final four.

On last week’s episode, they were challenged to do something many successful Drag Race alumnae have done themselves: create and perform their own one-woman show. Unlike these shows, however, the season 12 queens had one big source of help to coach them along the way: EGOT legend Whoopi Goldberg. 

Fan favorite Crystal Methyd snatched her long-awaited first win, while queens Heidi N. Closet and Jaida Essence Hall had to lip sync against each other for a spot in the top 5. With Whoopi Goldberg sitting on the judges’ panel and the runway theme being “the color purple,” it was only natural for the bottom two queens to lip sync to a song by an artist who was known for their love for the color: genre-bending music icon Prince. In the end, Jaida Essence Hall triumphed with her high-energy take on Prince’s 1982 hit “1999,” while beloved Southern belle Heidi N. Closet sashayed away with her head held high. 

In honor of one of the most influential musicians of all time once again being honored on Drag Race, read up on a few things about “1999” below. 

Prince reportedly didn’t eat or sleep while writing “1999”

Rolling Stone first recounted Prince’s aversion to sleeping and eating in 1985, and many of the people he worked with throughout the years noted his nonstop energy and excitement when it came to music. He’d dedicate himself to long recording sessions that often extended late into the night; many times he would turn down food because he felt it would make him tired, subsisting on a diet of coffee and snack foods whenever inspiration struck.

After his death, backup singer Jill Jones described these late-night recording sessions to The New York Times -- including one time being summoned to the studio to record her vocals for “1999” in her pajamas. 

Prince wanted to flip the narrative around “the end of the world” 

In a rare interview with Larry King in 1999, Prince discussed his fascination with the turn of the millennium when he first wrote the song seventeen years prior. Many of the people around him whom he “thought to be very optimistic people” were “dreading” the end of the millennium as an apocalypse of sorts -- even well before the world knew about the Y2K computer bug -- and Prince aimed to write a song that turned the end of the world from an anxiety-inducing event to the greatest party in human history. 

He vowed to retire the song after the year 1999

As the year 1999 began winding down and the world braced for the beginning of the new millennium, Prince announced that his performance of “1999” in his concert film Rave Un2 the Year 2000 would be the last time he’d be performing the song, telling The Early Show at the time, “There won’t be no need to play it in the ’00s.”

He kept his word, at least at first: he never included the song in his setlists over the following seven years, until the Florida A&M University marching band played an instrumental from “1999” between songs during his now-legendary Super Bowl halftime performance. According to Setlist.fm, Prince played “1999” at over 150 shows in the following decade between his Super Bowl triumph in 2007 and his untimely death. 

It’s the only song named after a year to chart on the Billboard Hot 100 in that same year

The Billboard charts are no stranger to songs named after years, with Bowling For Soup’s 2007 hit “1985” and the Smashing Pumpkins’ 1996 single “1979” registering Hot 100 entries after their respective releases. However, Prince’s “1999” holds the distinct honor of being the only song named entirely after a year to notch a chart entry in that same corresponding year: in January of 1999, the song re-entered the Hot 100 seventeen years after its release. 

It became the first song in Billboard history to reach the top 40 in three different decades

After his death in 2016, Prince’s music saw a spike in streams and sales that pushed many of his songs back on to the Billboard charts—“1999” being one of them. The song originally peaked at number 12 on the Hot 100 chart in July of 1983 and re-entered the top 40 in January of 1999; with its reappearance on the Hot 100 after Prince’s death, “1999” became the first song in Billboard chart history to reach the Top 40 in three different decades.

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