Saturday Night Live: The best, worst and most controversial performances

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Five Worst Saturday Night Live Performances

5. Red Hot Chili Peppers (February 22, 1992)
John Frusciante was way too messed up to go out on stage that night, and it turns into a recipe for disaster during "Under the Bridge." Dude can barely stand up. He's not playing the right notes (during one of the most recognizable guitar intros of the 20th Century), and Anthony Kiedis has to watch Frusciante's hands because he's not keeping time. Everything is too slow, and not in a good way. Plus, Kiedis is wearing no shirt and metallic silver sleeves. WTF?! Save that outfit for "Give It Away" (which they performed for the second song, with equally troubling results). The real shame is that this is right after Blood Sugar Sex Magik, and the band should have been killing this performance rather than limping away with its tail between its legs.

4. Ke$ha (April 18, 2010)
This lands somewhere between the failures of Lana Del Rey and Ashlee Simpson so far as problems go. Ke$ha isn't lip-syncing, but the live vocal effects don't do her any favors early on. That might work in an arena, but not on the small stage. She gives a small look off stage before she goes in. She knows this isn't going to go well. Her American flag ensemble seems equally awkward. It's not the Fourth of July, and "Tik Tok" isn't a strikingly patriotic tune. The backing track is super low, and then the vocal effects are gone, and we're left with her actual voice, which is grating and nasal-y. The thought crosses your mind that maybe this is a parody, rather than the real thing, but no one gets so lucky -- both she and the audience are stuck with four plus minutes of pain until it's all over.

3. Lana Del Rey (January 15, 2012)
This might have been America's wake up call that the musical performances on SNL had taken a turn for the strange. Even Brian Williams was dragged into the fray after an e-mail to Gawker's Nick Denton was aired on the popular blog. The thing is, compared to the others, this isn't the WORST performance ever, although she is clearly uncomfortable and her nerves are running the show, not her voice. SNL's claim to fame has always been "not ready for primetime players," but that's generally understood to reference the show's sense of humor, not the musical guests lack of experience. Bands are supposed to be on the show when they're huge based on merit, not when they're blog darlings. There's definitely a lesson here.

2. Karmin (February 11, 2012)

Not a month had gone by since Lana Del Rey's appearance, but apparently no one thought to avoid internet-fad acts as a result. Someone in a lab somewhere created a new species of pop star after combining the DNA of Katy Perry, Gwen Stefani and Nikki Minaj to create Karmin's Amy Heideman. Much like the plot to Jurassic Park, things never turn out well when you tamper with nature. The result is a rampage of wild gesticulation from Heidemann that seems so over-coached and yet so surprisingly underwhelming that it could cause an aneurysm if you think about it too hard. The big question is why are they on SNL? The duo got some YouTube views for covering Nikki Minaj songs, and now suddenly they're on a stage where some of the greatest musical acts of all time have performed. Nah. That's not right. They don't even have an album yet.

1. Ashlee Simpson (October 23, 2004)
Widely recognized as the worst performance in SNL history, this flub essentially derailed young Ashlee's career. And the performance really is that bad, a perfect lesson in why it's better to be good than fake it, because when everyone sees behind the curtain that you're an old man rather than the Wizard of Oz, it's not flattering. The track starts with her vocals playing, there's an awkward moment of realization, and then she does a jig of some sort before walking off stage. Yikes. What pushes this beyond the realm of tasteless is that during the closing credits Simpson tries to blame her band, saying that they started playing the wrong song. Ouch. At least Milli and Vanilli could dance.

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John was actually not too messed up, he was being a dick. Also, they played Stone Cold Bush, not Give it Away.

Jim Beam
Jim Beam

Where is the Fear video?  Thirty years later and the media is still afraid to post it.  nbc has done a good job at keeping off the internet.  They weren't an obscure punk band in the LA area and were frequently played on the Rodney on the ROQ show and New Wave Theater.


I am at a loss as to why everyone is so dissatisfied with Lana Del Rey.  I played the video posted with this article, minimized the browser immediately, and then listened to the song without watching the video. I think she is unique, different and original. 

The whole flak surrounding her reminds me of other artists who try to do their own thing, get annihilated by critics at the time, then only to be glorified years later. I am especially reminded of the reception Bob Dylan received at the Newport Folk Festival in 1965, where the reaction was mixed at best, and yet now is considered a seminal moment in the history of rock and roll.My question for you is why does Del Rey have to be a Britney Spears, a Madonna, or even worse, a Lady Gaga, in order to satisfy your in-the-box thinking? She is stilted and damned rigid, without a doubt. But why does she have to be gymnast or a bombastic style-over-substance performer (like the above mentioned ladies)? Why can't she just come out, be nervous, and sing a great song? (Which she did).  To compare her to the other disasters in this article (Ashley Simpson certainly deserves every ounce of criticism she receives) is a disservice to Del Rey, and an insult to music listeners everywhere.  And more than anything else, it shows a desire to hop on the bandwagon of what people these days are calling 'haters' - people who judge and criticize without any detailed, rational explanation of their disapproval, without suggestions as to how they could improve. If you don't like her music, fine, why not explain what makes it so bad? But just to say she was ruled by nerves and Brian Williams thinks so too, and his opinion was posted on a gossip website and thus is somehow validation, means nothing to me, nor does it to any intelligent music listener. And it certainly adds nothing to any conversation regarding music criticism. We have become so accustomed to people looking better than they sound that we hear nothing  when someone sounds better than they look. It is completely obvious to me that the MTV generation has finally and completely taken over the dialogue of modern music. Get over your visual prejudices and start listening instead. You may be surprised by what you hear.


You did indeed pick some real winners. Wow, very cool indeed.Total-Privacy dot US


 @6f3e51b5f10e18ab8f3294d8c8ed8c7c:disqus See Most Controversial on page three.

Carrie Nations
Carrie Nations

I think what the article is getting at is that LDR simply didn't earn her place on SNL. No, she's not the worst ever. But how she ever got on the bill is baffling and depressing, and points more to SNL capitalizing on the internet backlash surrounding her than it does her actual talent. I think the article is suggesting that she IS style over substance, that she's a flash-in-the-pan pop product that should be beneath the esteem of an SNL appearance (wait, does SNL still have esteem?). Some of her songs are embarrassingly bad; one or two are pretty catchy; and the rest are boring and unmemorable, to roughly quote a super-sharp line from Pitchfork's review, "the musical equivalent of a faked orgasm." In my opinion, the ultra-manufactured image is an obvious overcompensation for her musical unoriginality. 

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