Why Tom Holland’s stunning “Umbrella” performance matters

The Spider-Man star is still remembered four years later for his iconic, show-stopping "Lip Sync Battle" number

By Sarabeth Pollock
Published May 11, 2021 12:30AM (EDT)
Tom Holland at the "Spider-Man: Homecoming" Hollywood premiere (Alberto E. Rodriguez/Getty Image)
Tom Holland at the "Spider-Man: Homecoming" Hollywood premiere (Alberto E. Rodriguez/Getty Image)

This story originally appeared on Culturess.

Four years ago this weekend, Tom Holland and Zendaya appeared on "Lip Sync Battle" ahead of "Spider-Man: Far From Home" to help build hype for the movie. By the end of the show, Holland had created a viral moment that has become the stuff of legend, and it's something that will live on for years to come. More than achieving legend status, though, is the fact that Holland channeled old Hollywood in his performance, and it's a good thing.

Once upon a time, Hollywood stars needed to be more than actors. They needed to sing, and they needed to dance. The modern equivalent to this idea is the EGOT, namely a star who has achieved an Emmy (for television), Grammy (for music), Oscar (for film) and a Tony for theater. Unlocking EGOT status is a big thing, and it's incredibly rare, but it's not to say that many actors around the globe aren't talented beyond an on-screen performance.

When Holland took the stage, he stunned everyone with his tight choreography. Sure, he was lip syncing (that was the point of the show, of course), but there is every reason to believe that he could have been singing, too.

Tom Holland channels Old Hollywood with "Umbrella"

Holland opens the number with an abbreviated rendition of the classic "Singing in the Rain" number from the movie of the same name. Like Gene Kelly, he's in a suit and hat and he's dancing around a lamppost. Soon, though, he dashes off stage and emerges again in a bustier and fishnet stockings, with bright red lipstick and a sparkle in his eye.

For the next two minutes and ten seconds he dazzles the crowd. A brand new oral history of the story highlights how it all came together. To put it in perspective, when one of the "Umbrella" writers was approached to use the song, he didn't even know who Holland was. Now Holland is arguably more famous for the song than Rihanna.

As a relative unknown, many people had no idea that Holland started out in theater. He played dancer Billy Elliot as a youngster, so dancing is second nature to him. Though he's primarily acting these days, there are lots of people who would love to see Holland make a musical because he's just that good.

There's a reason Hollywood made so many musicals back in the day. Not only were they popular with moviegoers, but studios could rely on any one of the actors on payroll to step in and sing and dance. (Think about Judy Garland and Debbie Reynolds)

Actors who sing and dance without training and preparation aren't as common these days, which makes Holland's performance even more special. No one knew how big that performance was going to be at the time. After he did the final flip, Holland was firmly cemented in the cultural zeitgeist, not as Spider-Man but as the guy who can dance his butt off and was also in Spider-Man.

As we celebrate the fourth anniversary of Holland's "Umbrella" and look ahead, there's every reason to hope Holland appears in a musical someday so he can showcase his diverse talents once again. Until then, we'll continue to watch "Umbrella" every time it shows up on our timelines because it never gets old.


Sarabeth Pollock

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