Top 10 Worst SNL Musical Performances
VOICE OVER: Phoebe de Jeu
WRITTEN BY: Aaron Cameron
Live from New York, itâ€™s the worst SNL musical performances. We're looking at the worst musical performances to ever take place on Saturday Night Live. To be clear, we're not talking about controversial performances â€“ hi SinÃ©ad! â€“ and we're not talking about dull performances, or artists who, years on, are forgotten and obscure. What we're talking about are performances that were monumentally disastrous, even in the moment, and that generated a lot of negative chatter afterwards. WatchMojo ranks the worst SNL musical performances. Which SNL musical performance do you think was the worst? Let us know in the comments!
Live. From New York. It's... terrible! Welcome to WatchMojo and today we’ll be counting down our picks for the Top 10 Worst SNL Musical Performances.
For this list, we're looking at the worst musical performances to ever take place on Saturday Night Live. To be clear, we're not talking about controversial performances – hi Sinéad! – and we're not talking about dull performances, or artists who, years on, are forgotten and obscure. What we're talking about are performances that were monumentally disastrous, even in the moment, and that generated a lot of negative chatter afterwards.
#10: Meat Loaf (1978)
1978 was a big year for Meat Loaf. The actor/rockstar was hitting dizzying heights thanks to the success of the “Bat Out of Hell” album. This was enough to land Meat an appearance on SNL, a platform that would catapult him to the masses, and a new level of fame. Introduced by veteran actor Christopher Lee (with a groan worthy joke), Meat Loaf and alternating company were poised for a great performance - until Mr. Loaf begins to sing, that is. Between rocky and shaky, his vocals never quite come together, notes both high and low go un-hit, and even his team of backup singers seem bored and frequently wander off key.
#9: Troye Sivan (2018)
When Troye Sivan appeared on SNL in 2018, his performance of “My, My, My!” split the room... or at least the Twitterverse. While Sivan won some new fans – or at least reaffirmed some old ones – others were not so kind. Commentary ranged from viewers not knowing or wanting to know who he was, to questioning exactly why he was so damn wet. But these were the kinder comments. Others took his dancing to be a lame attempt at being sexy, others deemed him an “Aaron Carter Wannabe”, and a “dancing & singing lizard boy”. Yikes.
#8: Iggy Azalea feat. MØ (2014)
Iggy nailed it here. If you're a fan of her music and brand, you were sure thrilled with her performance. The trouble here is MØ, a Danish singer with a long list of collaborators. This was MØ's first appearance on American TV... and, oh how it shows. From the moment she wanders out, the segment comes off like a scrapped sketch from an unfeatured player working through their two weeks notice. She would later cite microphone latency issues as the source of her troubles, but that hardly explains her off-dancing and sixth grader in a school play stage presence.
#7: Chris Gaines (1999)
Who is Chris Gaines? He's the Australian-born, pre-emo late '90s rockstar of course. Or, in reality, a soul patch wearing Garth Brooks in a Beatles wig. There's a lot to unravel here. As an artist, “Gaines” did have a Billboard top 5 hit, making him a quasi-worthy guest. In the Gainesverse, however, he was huge. The trouble is while the character had a whole backstory – and was ultimately intended to lead a feature film (that film was never made) – the general public knew none of this, and were instead baffled by this strange game of dress-up from the decade's top country artist.
#6: Fear (1981)
Think all it takes to be punk is a couple power chords and a Californianized British accent? Oh no, friend, punk is a way of life. At least it was for Fear. Formed by Lee Ving just a few years prior, the band caught the attention of John Belushi, who attempted to get them to soundtrack his film, “Neighbors”, only to see the idea shot down by studio brass. To make it up to them, Belushi petitioned to get them on SNL, despite no longer being a cast member. The result? A studio full of “slamdancers”, pumpkin guts, and $20,000 worth of damages.
#5: The Replacements (1986)
Formally the Impediments, until the band's drunken rep caught up with them, the Replacements were known to like a song now and again between drinks. They once drunkenly played the worst set ever staged at CBGB, to an audience of talent scouts no less. But in 1986, fortune shone on the 'Mats, when the Pointer Sisters cancelled and musical director G.E. Smith invited them to SNL. Rehearsal went well... but the hours before the show were spent getting drunk with host Harry Dean Stanton, and their obvious state, clothes swapping, and an uncleared f-bomb were enough for Lorne Michaels to ban them then and there.
#4: Kesha (2010)
She's reinvented herself since, but in 2010 Kesha arguably set the SNL benchmark for awful. There are all kinds of bad floating around here, from her odd stage presence – which many speculated was due to drunkenness – and lame rapping. This was capped by Kesha asking, “does anyone ever stop to think that maybe we are the aliens?” But for “Your Love Is My Drug,” she doubled down on the weird and came out in glow paint. This, aside from being strange to look at, was objectively offensive to indigenous peoples. The singing was arguably a little better, but still incredibly pitchy.
#3: Kanye West (2008)
Kanye's known to commit a social faux pas now and again, but they rarely directly involve his music. On SNL in 2008, while promoting “808s & Heartbreak”, the Louis Vuitton Don launched into “Love Lockdown”, a track thought by many critics to be the highlight of the album, and a departure for West given that it featured him singing. But did it? For style rather than a lack of talent, West's “singing” voice for the song was processed via vocoder – a device that converts and musicalizes the human voice. Live however, this proved incredibly messy, with Kanye’s voice cracking, the vocal effect coming through inconsistently and the backups being cranked up sporadically to cover it. West grabbed people’s attention with another SNL performance a decade later when he began playing an extra song that had to be cut with a commercial break, all while wearing a MAGA hat and he capped things off with an unplanned (and unaired) speech about president Donald Trump.
#2: Lana Del Rey (2012)
We've all gotten used to Lana Del Rey, but 2012 was a different time. A few years prior, she was Lizzy Grant, a budding songwriter and up-and-comer. Taking on the name Lana Del Rey, she found her first round of fame in 2011 via YouTube and her star only climbed higher with her second album, “Born to Die”. However, that album was still weeks away when she appeared on SNL in January of 2012, an appearance that was instantly hated – perhaps due to a case of too much hype with too little proof and substance, or maybe because it was simply underwhelming.
Before we unveil our top pick, here are some honorable or in this case, dishonorable mentions.
Greta Van Fleet (2019)
DJ Khaled (2019)
#1: Ashlee Simpson (2004)
While it doesn't require as much talent as singing, lip-syncing is also an art. You have to .... well, you have to synchronize your lips to words mostly. But you also have to really sell it, y'know? These, friends, are the basics of lip-syncing. But, it also helps if you're mouthing the right song. On stage for her second song, “Autobiography”, Simpson's disembodied voice began to sing first song “Pieces of Me”, which prompted her band to switch tracks, and her to do a merry jig and bolt. Initially blaming her band, Ashlee later said she opted not to sing live due to her acid reflux.