Last year, the comedy variety show Saturday Night Live celebrated its 41st anniversary. The show is known almost as much for breaking new musical talent as it is doing the same for some of the greatest comedians in history, but there have also been some very famous duds in SNL’s otherwise illustrious career of booking a wide variety of the best musical acts out there.
While less-confident performers try to limit the unpredictability inherent in live TV by using a backing track or other technical aids, those crutches have a tendency to malfunction on the SNL stage. Here are some of the famously terrible performances that have taken place on SNL during the show’s 41-year run, from artists that no one would ever hear from again to otherwise talented musicians who it just seems were having a bad Saturday night.
1. Lana del Rey
When del Rey took the SNL stage at the beginning of 2012, she was already receiving a lot of backlash for her quick rise to fame with the hit “Video Games” before her debut album Born to Die had even come out. Critics pointed out that it appeared as though she’d had plastic surgery since she was just a New York-based singer-songwriter with a boring name, and feminists blasted her damsel-in-distress aesthetics. The truth is, her SNL performance of “Video Games” wasn’t necessarily awful.
It was a little bit awkward and reveals a performer who is probably much more comfortable with songwriting and being in the studio than with performing, but the press was thirsty for her blood and turned it into a debacle. The performance was used as “proof” that del Rey was as talentless as everyone was saying, and for a second there it looked like it could have been a career-ending blow. The release of last year’s Ultraviolence proved the haters wrong, though, as it was counted as one of the most critically acclaimed records of the year, regardless of what you think of her image and aesthetics.