Ed Sheeran Goes Full John Mayer on SNL

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First things first: Ed Sheeran's Saturday Night Live portrait makes him look like Hobbit Spice and it's impossible to quit staring at it. Secondly, it's exciting for an artist of Sheeran's stature to use the SNL stage to premiere new material instead of dropping it via YouTube or Twitter or whichever social network he'd choose for instant gratification and clickable domination. A creepy as hell headshot may have come out of it, but Sheeran's SNL debut was a fruitful one for him that established crossover appeal--or at least it justified Sheeran's presence on the playlist of anyone over the age of 18 who needs to lay off the greatest hits of Jack Johnson and John Mayer for awhile.

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Pharrell and His Hat Celebrate a "Happy" SNL Birthday

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Last year may have brought about the global triumph of Mrs. Carter, the facepalm-inducing skeeviness of Robin Thicke and the tongue, cultural appropriation and subsequent redemption of Miley Cyrus, but Pharrell and his hat are the reigning pop juggernauts of 2014. He got Meryl Streep to shimmy at the Oscars. He's convinced the world that a chirpy, chipper song from a kids' movie can be enjoyed by listeners of every age. His sartorial choices have spawned a plethora of memes and Twitter accounts, and "Happy" and the rest of G I R L show no signs of dropping from the Billboard Hot 100 anytime soon. The only thing surprising about Pharrell's Saturday Night Live performance is that it didn't happen sooner, and that a NBC page didn't get roped into wearing a giant foam suit in the shape of his infamous Buffalo topper.

See also: Miley Cyrus Redeems Herself on SNL

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Sam Smith SLAYED Saturday Night Live

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Sam Smith's a vocal powerhouse from across the pond. Still relatively unknown to American audiences, Smith is in the process of making the initial laps of touring behind his debut, In the Lonely Hour, won't see an American release until June 3. He initially broke through in the UK as the guest on Disclosure's "Latch" in 2012. Now, Smith is 21 and ready to truly break, and if his Saturday Night Live performance is any indication, it's only a [brief] matter of time before "Sam Smith" is a household name.
See also: Miley Cyrus Redeems Herself on SNL

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The National Are Completely Inoffensive ... Which Is What Makes Them So Offensive

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Here's the deal with The National: you either embrace "Mr. November" as a personal anthem and the rest of their catalog for its completely approachable and expertly helmed agenda in Almost Arena Rock, or you don't. You're either with Matt Berninger when he starts screaming as though he accidentally stepped on lit coals, or you're recoiling because you think the lead singer thrashing about up there is about to break his glasses in the middle of a seizure. You either keep tabs on who guitarist Aaron Dessner is working with this week (dude's an amiable producer whose credits include Sharon Van Etten's Tramp and Local Natives' Hummingbird in addition to the majority of The National's releases) or you get confused about which Dessner brother is the one who's making a guitar do very weird things for no explicable reason, 'cause there are two.

You're either a National fan or you're not. They're that polarizing, despite their wholly inoffensive contributions to the indie rock canon, and their Saturday Night Live debut was no exception.

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"OMG Her Face!": America Reacts to Haim's SNL Performance


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Did Beck's Band (and Hat) Upstage Him on SNL?

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We all get by with a little help from our friends, but surprise cameos during the musical guest performances on Saturday Night Live don't happen all too frequently. The Imagine Dragons/Kendrick Lamar reprise was a welcome one when they played SNL last month, and that had more to do with Kendrick saving the godawful arena gods from themselves with the addition of his verse than anything else. This week, with Beck, we got a similar distraction with appearances from Josh Tillman--aka Father John Misty--and Roger Joseph Manning, Jr. formerly of Jellyfish. Between the hat that Beck stole from the set of Witness, the symphonic, dirge-like quality of "Wave" and a bit of an identity crisis on hand for those fans who'd rather listen to Odelay on repeat or not acknowledge Beck's life after "Loser," we've got a bit of a bear on our hands to figure out, because Beck on SNL was one of the more surreal and true-to-life performances the show has seen in recent memory.

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Save Kendrick Lamar: Imagine Dragons on SNL

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By all accounts, Imagine Dragons are having a very, very good week. They began it with their performance with Kendrick Lamar at the Grammys last Sunday, which was one of the most lauded of the evening. They took home the statuette--or the Blue Ivy Sippy Cup, as it's now known--for Best Rock Performance of 2014 after their bombastic rendition of the hit that got them there, "Radioactive." They were the musical guests on Saturday Night Live Saturday night, a particularly special, poignant episode as it was Seth Meyers' last before Jimmy Fallon passes him the Late Night torch later this month. They were in all the right places at all the right times.

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Bastille on SNL: Uncomfortable

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There's only one word that can sum up Bastille's Saturday Night Live debut, and it's "uncomfortable."

Here's the thing: Bastille, like fun., is a band that banks on the enthusiasm of a crowd to propel them through the high point of their performance. Their most lauded singles are sugary, uplifting anthems with nary a minor chord between them that consist of more vowel-heavy utterances than actual words of significance, and these hits--fun.'s "Some Nights;" Bastille's "Pompeii"--require audience participation in a live setting just as badly as they need Autotune in the studio. The hand claps and "AYYYY AY OH AY OH"-es drown out the mistakes and rev up the band, especially if frontman Dan Smith runs out of breath in the middle of a line. When Smith lifts a singular drumstick before pounding the tom to his left, he conducts the euphoric hysteria of the crowd before him, and the drumstick doesn't look totally ridiculous and out of place when thousands of people fall all over themselves in anticipation of him beating something with it.

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Drake Goes Full Degrassi on SNL

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It's a lot, shouldering the pressure of hosting Saturday Night Live and taking its oft-unforgiving stage as its musical guest. Miley Cyrus, Lady Gaga, Bruno Mars, and Justin Timberlake have all excelled at this, and Saturday night, Drake trounced all of them as one of the most effortlessly enjoyable triple-threats to leave people wondering about why Aubrey Graham quit his day job in the first place.

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Justin Timberlake Kills SNL Again, But Should He Have Played 'Mirrors'?

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JUSTIN TIMBERLAKE WORE GIANT CARTOON HANDS AND SANG A NELLY SONG DRESSED AS A ROLL OF WRAPPING PAPER AND BARRY GIBB WAS THERE (REALLY) AND PAUL McCARTNEY PLAYED A TINY HARMONICA AND MADONNA SHOWED UP FOR NO REASON AND I JUST HAVE A LOT OF FEELINGS.

THAT IS ALL.

I mean, it's not, really. Last night's Saturday Night Live was spectacular, from the goofy (and seasonally appropriate!) cold open down to the return of Jimmy Fallon and from Timberlake's exceptional Bee Gees tribute to Timberlake's solitary game of laser tag. The writers delivered riotous sketches, the cast was fantastic, Kate McKinnon not being the most famous comedienne in the country remains a mystery, and the Fallon/Timberlake repartee made for some of the most hilarious moments the show has seen in recent years. (Timberlake as Fallon in particular was pretty silly.) When the cast has a blast, it shows, and the Christmas episode of SNL goes down as one of the best executed and superlatively performed of the season without a doubt.

And then we got to Timberlake.

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Kings of Leon Were Bored as Hell on SNL

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Admit it: Kings of Leon have gotten stuck in your craw for at least 30 seconds in their ascent to American rock deities or demons, depending on what side of the love/hate spectrum your tastes reside. "Use Somebody" is one of the biggest earworms of the past decade. "Sex On Fire" is a dive bar jukebox mainstay at this point. It's been a minute since KoL have changed the strings on their electric guitars and hit the road to preach the gospel of New Nashville (or their version of it), but with Mechanical Bull, their first record in three years and one that debuted at #1 in the UK and #2 in the US, you'd think the brooding, belting band of brothers (and cousin) would be ready to saddle up and buck up for an explosive volley of performances, SNL and otherwise, before they embark on a massive international tour in early 2014. You'd think they'd narrow their eyes and grit their teeth and inject the kind of intensity that made them famous, that made Caleb's screaming and straightforward tenor so endearing and addictive, into every single move they make as they get the music of Mechanical Bull out there. You'd think they'd show up to a late night television performance and prove to the world that they've still got the spark that "Use Somebody" fanned into an inferno.

Nope.

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