Blake Shelton Twangs Out of Tune on SNL

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Honestly, Blake? We're not mad. We're just disappointed.

Shelton's hosting/performing gig on Saturday Night Live this week is a lesson in coulda-woulda-shoulda: He could've brought a bit of country to the concrete jungle, and he could've downplayed the differences between the big city and the small town sensibilities embraced by his music and persona. Despite some great comedic moments, an epic fake music video in "Wishin' Boot" and perfectly respectable renditions of "Boys 'Round Here" and "Neon Light," he stayed straight in the confines of assumption and delivered exactly the kind of episode we'd anticipate from someone who may as well be dubbed Music Row's Hollywood ambassador. He did what pop-country stars are expected to do by those who refuse to recognize the legitimacy of the genre: He banked on the easy jokes and became a cartoon of himself that grew more ridiculous with every punch line, and he threw a pallor over his performance (and country music on the whole) in the process.

He gave the haters what they wanted—and that's a problem, as Shelton's hokey routine set his songs up to fail.

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You Don't Have to 'Get' Sia to Love Her on 'SNL'

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No, America. Lady Gaga didn't get a haircut, Sia isn't copping Mother Monster's style, and the most exciting talent in pop music doesn't have to look at you in order to nail a stunning performance you can't look away from.

When it was announced that the notoriously stage-shy Sia would be heading to Saturday Night Live to begin the second half of the show's 40th season, question marks popped up all over the place: Was she going to perform with her back to the audience, as she's done in the past? Was she going to obscure her face, as she did in the promo videos for the episode that ran last week? Would there be dancing and a performance from Maddie Ziegler, the Dance Moms star featured in Sia's now iconic videos for "Chandelier" and "Elastic Heart"? Was she going to perform onstage at all?

Thankfully, more yeses abounded than nos.

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One Direction Hit Seriously Strong Notes on SNL

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Let's get one thing clear, adults: Your newfound Directioner tendencies are TOTALLY OKAY. The One Direction guys can actually sing, and no, it doesn't make you a cheesy pop fan in dire need of public shaming to acknowledge it. They're not kids anymore, they're not going anywhere, and each record they release proves to be more likable than the last. They're doing the legwork to ensure that their voices will be heard long after they've aged out of the boyhood that keeps them employed. They're writing more, picking up an instrument from time to time (hi, Niall!) and grabbing at the reins as they continue to tour relentlessly and drop one hit after another.

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Charli XCX Plays It Too Safe With Her SNL Performance

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Despite the fact that she co-wrote and lent her voice to "Fancy," one of the most indisputable hits of 2014, the world is still arching eyebrows over Charli XCX and what exactly she's all about. Is she a pop tart banking on plaid miniskirts and '90s nostalgia in the hopes of finding her own voice in the wake of tired trends? Is she pop's next big thing, an artist who's more than capable of writing the catchiest of hooks and delivering them with an equally distinguishing voice, like Lady Gaga before her? Is she a flash in the pan or a strong talent who's earned her shiny new acclaim, this Saturday Night Live spotlight, and a shot at headlining her own agenda instead of that of her collaborators in 2015?

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Nicki Minaj Outshines James Franco With Pinkprint Cuts on SNL

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If there are two names that 2014 wore the hell out, it's Beyoncé and Kim Kardashian West, and yet Nicki Minaj was able to capitalize on both -- and deliver a stellar musical set -- on Saturday Night Live, without tapping the trend till it goes stale.

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Bruno Mars and Mark Ronson Have a Total Blast on SNL

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And just like that, the internet was a-floodin' with hearts, stars, enamored emojis, and compliments, and for one brief moment, we were all united in the warm embrace of Hooliganism after Bruno Mars took Saturday Night Live by storm (and in flamingo pink at that). We can bicker about pop stars. We can fight about Adam Levine's falsetto. We may fall down in fisticuffs over lip-syncing or awkward choreography, but we can also get giddy about a solid showing from a talent who's been staying out of the headlines lately, and we can get real, real excited for their return. That's exactly the kind of good cheer Bruno Mars and Mark Ronson brought to Saturday Night Live.

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Kendrick Lamar Undergoes an Exorcism on SNL

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A strong Saturday Night Live showing can serve as a glimpse into the future, depending on the parties involved. With Kanye West, "Black Skinhead" proved to audiences that a break from format with an outside-the-box presentation could achieve great things on an otherwise blank and boring soundstage. Sam Smith offered "Stay With Me" to the masses as his introduction to the world before he became the biggest voice of 2014, a trend Hozier would repeat a few months later. Waning interest in Iggy Azalea followed up her flop, while the public's curiosity about St. Vincent piqued and Miley Cyrus was redeemed.

And with the good kid from m.A.A.d city? This week's SNL may as well be a Magic 8 Ball, because this was the first official indication that 2015 will be the Year of Kendrick Lamar.

See also: Prince Melts Faces for Eight Minutes on SNL

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Prince Melts Faces for Eight Minutes on SNL

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"LADIES AND GENTLEMEN, YOU ARE SO LUCKY TONIGHT!"

Usually, when the host of Saturday Night Live brings out the musical guest, it's simple: A "Ladies and gentlemen, [musical guest]!" and a gesture from Vanna White's playbook make for the uniform greeting before the song begins. When the notoriously elusive and aloof Prince made his return to SNL this weekend for the first time since 2006, Chris Rock couldn't contain himself, and though the comedian tends to speak in all caps anyway, his excitement was totally appropriate. PRINCE PLAYING SNL IS A BIG, BIG DEAL. And yes: the audience was lucky.

See also: Was Iggy Azalea's SNL Performance the Worst in the Show's History?

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Was Iggy Azalea's SNL Performance the Worst in the Show's History?

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First things first: Rita Ora's backing vocals? Not the Realest, and she still managed to upstage Iggy Azalea for her big Saturday Night Live debut.

Before we begin, let us stipulate that Azalea's chart and headline domination in 2014 is irrefutable. Between "Fancy," "Black Widow," "Problem," and the collection of awards-show performances and festival engagements under her belt, the radiant rapper has had an excellent year, chock-full of star-spangled collaborations and oft-repeated verses. It's a good time to be Iggy Azalea. Or it was until she made her way to SNL.

See also: Sorry, Haters: Maroon 5 Rocked SNL

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Hozier On SNL: One Big Heart-Eyed Emoji

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Remember when "Stay With Me" dropped and everyone scrambled to learn more about Sam Smith, the baby-faced British crooner that showed up out of nowhere to remind us that England's got more to offer to pop than the distant promise of a new Adele album and One Direction's tattoos? His Saturday Night Live performance was the beacon at the beginning of his ascent to fame, and Hozier, the smoldering singer-songwriter also hailing from the northernmost reaches of the Atlantic, is following in his footsteps.

See also: Sam Smith SLAYED Saturday Night Live

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