With a slew of odd choices for musical guests lately, it's not much of a surprise that Saturday Night Live has booked boy-band explosion One Direction to perform on Saturday, April 7. At this point, it's not a question of why -- as the group of male Brit heartthrobs is like a Justin Bieber five-pack that landed at the top of the Billboard 200 chart this week with their debut album Up All Night -- but instead a question of at what cost.
To understand what we mean, consider SNL's most recent musical guests, including Lana Del Rey. Del Rey, a champion among the blogosphere, was the victim of overhype (who knew there could be such a thing in music) and her performance, as true-to-form Del Reyian as it was -- lifeless and all -- was critically panned by everyone who had fingers and a keyboard. The biggest criticism was that she performed on a stage that others would kill for without having yet even released her debut album, Born To Die.
While pop duo Karmin was considerably more enjoyable to watch -- singer Amy Heidermann, with her awkward dance moves, came off like a hybrid of all the combined strengths of Katy Perry and Nicki Minaj -- the band still hasn't released its debut album. Again blog darlings, they were booked to perform due to their MASSIVE YouTube following, thanks to their tasty cover of "Look At Me Now" -- Heidermann gives Busta Rhymes a run for his money, believe it or not -- and "Super Bass."
While Karmin didn't perform any covers, Heidermann's on-stage persona did much of the heavy-lifting for otherwise unfamiliar, albeit uber catchy, pop songs. Karmin's experience performing live -- or before a camera, anyway -- served the band well, as Karmin so far has been the only music gamble that paid off for SNL this season.
February also saw the SNL debut of Sleigh Bells, whose album, Reign Of Terror, was rightly timed for a release three days after the live performance -- Sleigh Bells did SNL on Saturday, February 18; the album dropped Tuesday, February 21.
All acts considered, One Direction is in a bit of a Lorne Michaels-induced bind. While the band's album dropped well in advance of its performance -- One Direction only has one, um, "recognizable," if you could call it that, single in the States: "What Makes You Beautiful." Should the boys perform it without a hitch, they still have to worry about their second performance on the show. What song do they do? Inevitably, the second single from Up All Night, but who's to say it won't take as well with America.
Worse, "What Makes You Beautiful" has only hit the pre-teens and early teens of America -- do they watch Saturday Night Live in the first place? Are they even allowed to stay up that late? Booking a band on their prospective success within the over-thirteen demographic, much of the SNL viewership, is a big gamble for Michaels.
Nevertheless, the show would do well to take no more big gambles with the musical guests and stick to the tried and true musicians first -- for starters, how 'bout Bruce Springsteen? He just released a new album, you know. And if the show does insist on booking new, rising talent, a la Karmin, the honor of performing on Saturday Night Live should first go to Americans, not Brits. How about booking maybe fun. or up-and-comer Azaelia Banks?
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