October 23, 2013 via Pepsi
The 5 Best Saturday Night Live Performances of 2013
While Saturday Night Live is best known for its hilarious sketch comedy from some of the country’s most talented comedians, the long-running variety show has also provided a number of incredible live performances from our favorite artists over the years. 2013 was no exception with artists like Kanye West, Justin Timberlake and Vampire Weekend gracing the stage to perform on the late-night program. SNL's new season is just revving up. So far, Miley Cyrus, The Arcade Fire and Katy Perry have graced the stage. To help guide your judgement of the coming performances we’ve taken a look back to highlight the five best of 2013 so far.
After releasing his critically-acclaimed studio album good kid, m.A.A.d. city in October of 2012, Kendrick Lamar visited Saturday Night Live in January to perform “Swimming Pools” and “Poetic Justice.” The latter performance was significant for a few reasons. One, it’s a track that features Toronto rapper Drake, who wasn’t present to do his verse. However, Kendrick carried the performance without his rapping contemporary, seamlessly executing his verses over the smooth backdrop provided by Terrace Martin, Ali and others. For fans who recognized “Poetic Justice,” they likely noticed the addition of a saxophone to the song as well, which gave the live aspect of the performance a polished feel. Check out Kendrick Lamar's performance of “Poetic Justice,” on SNL above.
Emerging Southern group Alabama Shakes got the opportunity in February to showcase their bluesy rock style on Saturday Night Live, and the band didn’t disappoint with their electric performances of “Hold On” and “Always Alright.” Lead singer Brittany Howard stole the show with the growl of her voice, soulful lyrics and a guitar solo to boot. Even more impressive was the composure of the band who treated the performance like they had been touring for decades even though they have only been together for about four years. For many, this was likely their first time hearing Alabama Shakes. After these performances, it certainly wouldn’t be the last. Watch Alabama Shakes perform “Hold On,” here.
Right before Justin Timberlake’s latest album The 20/20 Experience released on March 15, the 32-year-old singer appeared on Saturday Night Live as the host and performer. The double duty assignment was nothing new for Timberlake, who has taken on that role a handful of times in the past. His experience showed too as the Memphis singer did an incredible performance of “Suit & Tie” in the proper attire, with Jay Z joining him onstage for the R&B hit. He also performed “Mirrors,” and it was clear that nearly seven years since his last album Justin Timberlake hadn’t lost a step. Watch Justin Timberlake perform “Suit & Tie” with Jay Z above.
Just a few days before Vampire Weekend released Modern Vampires of the City in May, the New York indie rock group appeared on Saturday Night Live to perform “Diane Young” and “Unbelievers” from their new album. With Ezra Koenig providing his signature sound on vocals, the band was in rare form as they treated audience members with a crown jewel of a performance. Modern Vampires of the City would go on to debut number one on the Billboard charts a week later, and it’s safe to safe there was a direct correlation here with the Vampire Weekend’s stellar performance. Check out Vampire Weekend's “Diane Young,” performance above.
Just a month before Kanye West released his much-anticipated album Yeezus, the Chicago rapper appeared on Saturday Night Live to premiere two songs. West didn’t hold back as he performed two equally controversial and likewise impressive records in “Black Skinhead” and “New Slaves.” Wearing all black and growling in the microphone like a rock star, Kanye suspensefully captivated the audience throughout each performance. Backed by a band that played like they were in a 60,000 seat stadium and not a mid-size studio in downtown New York, it was a performance from Kanye to remember. Check out Kanye West performing “Black Skinhead,” above.