Following on from Lana Del Rey’s SNL nuclear bomb (a super-fail of a performance which has since set the internet ablaze with L.D.R. hate), SongLyrics takes a look back over five other controversial performances to have hit the Saturday Night Live stage!
In April 2011, a clearly nervous Ke$ha stumbled her way on to the SNL stage in order to perform her debut single, “Tik Tok.” The performance managed to piece together awkward a cappella, tacky costume and mutant choreography, all before it took a turn for the worse when Ke$ha, erm, “played” six laser beams midway into the song (for reasons SongLyrics is yet to discern). This poor attempt (and we haven’t even DISCUSSED the vocals) at multi-themed (come on are we channeling patriotism or NASA here?) stadium pyrotechnics on a stage no bigger than my bathroom floor was swiftly stamped “the worst SNL performance ever” – only serving to confirm Ke$ha’s status as one of the trashiest artists of the 21st century.
Sinéad O’Connor sparked major controversy in October 1992 when she appeared on SNL to cover Bob Marley‘s “War.” Unlike young Ke$ha, pipes were not the issue for this pitch-perfect Irish rocker. No, the reason why this performance finds itself on this list is because, upon completion of her eloquent rendition, Miss O’Connor (or is it Mrs? I’ve given up keeping on top of her marital status these days…) produced a photo of Pope John Paul II, which she then ripped into pieces and threw at the camera whilst roaring: “Fight the real enemy!” (in protest against supposed abuse in the Roman Catholic Church). Following a few tuts and gasps, the audience recoiled in bemused silence while O’Connor solemnly bent down to, um, blow out her candle display. SNL have since tried to pretend this whole incident never happened, but thanks to a nation of VHS players set to record that night, this controversial clip has survived through to the YouTube generation.
Kanye West’s trusty auto-tune turned out to be, well, not be so trusty in December 2008, when the rapper took to SNL in order to perform “Love Lockdown.” Technical glitches meant we were blessed (ahem!) with the opportunity to hear young Yeezy’s sans-vocoder singing voice in all its naked, pitchy glory. Even the flashy light show and linear sunglasses couldn’t conceal West’s unforgivable bum notes (he didn’t even attempt to reach the high ones, preferring to leave that job to the backing track), usually caressed into the correct tuning by countless digital devices. “Love Lockdown?” More like “Love LETDOWN!”
In December 1977, Elvis Costello was invited to perform on SNL in place of the Sex Pistols, who were unable to obtain passports in time. Costello planned to perform his track, “Radio Radio,” but, rumor has it, SNL kingpin, Lorne Michaels, did not want Costello performing this anti-media anthem on his show. Consequently, Costello was forced to play “Less than Zero”…for a fat five seconds, that is. A few bars into the track, Costello stopped his band, yelling, “I’m sorry, ladies and gentlemen, there’s no reason to do this song here!” before charging at full-speed into the forbidden “Radio Radio.” Later that night, Costello would get banned from SNL for his anarchic antics, though a sore Michaels would ultimately welcome the Brit rocker back in 1989.
Ashlee Simpson – Autobiography (or was it Pieces of Me?)
Ashlee Simpson gave a lesson on how to flush your career down the toilet in 10 seconds in October 2004. The “rock and roll” counterpart to sister, Jessica, appeared on SNL to sing two songs – “Autobiography” and “Pieces of Me.” When it came to Ash’s first performance, despite going to mouth the words of the planned “Autobiography,” the vocals for “Pieces of Me” instead ricocheted around the studio. Uh oh! Turns out the drummer pressed play on the wrong mime track, prompting poor Miss. Simpson to do an embarrassing hoe-down across the stage floor before walking off on the verge of tears. Simpson later blamed her “acid reflux disease” for her need to lip sync. Okay, we accept that, but seriously – why the JIG?!