The Week In Pop

The Week In Pop: 23 Artists Who Should Make Their SNL Debut This Season

Saturday Night Live’s 41st season premieres this Saturday with Miley Cyrus holding down joint duties as host and musical guest. (Joint, get it? Because Miley loves weed? Trust me, she’d find it funny.) Although Cyrus has graced the SNL stage before, the next two musical guests, the Weeknd and Demi Lovato, are making their first appearances at Studio 8H. After that, we don’t know which musical guests the show has lined up, but we have some suggestions.

Fetty Wap

The case: In yesterday’s Status Ain’t Hood, Tom made a good argument that Fetty Wap is the most dominant new rapper of 2015 and probably the most dominant new pop star, too. He’s the first rapper since Lil Wayne in 2011 to land two hits in the Hot 100 top 10 simultaneously, the first since Eminem in 2013 to put three hits in the top 20 all at once. He managed to become part of the squad while remaining loyal to his squaaaaaaaa. His self-titled debut album is expected to debut at #1 next week. He’s become so wildly popular so fast that soon every rap song on the radio will sound like Fetty featuring Fetty, assuming anyone can figure out how to convincingly imitate the guy.
The chances: Unless consequences from his motorcycle accident get in the way, this one seems like a lock.

Diplo and friends

The case: Although he’s long had a hand in launching iconic careers (M.I.A.) and producing major hits (Usher’s peerless “Climax”), Diplo is having his biggest year ever in the pop sphere. He landed top-10 hits under his own name (Jack Ü’s #8-peaking Justin Bieber collab “Where Are U Now?” was rebranded as Diplo & Skrillex Feat. Justin Bieber somewhere along the way) and with his oft-morphing group Major Lazer (the Major Lazer/DJ Snake/MØ hit “Lean On” recently topped out at #4). He also participated in this heavily underrated Madonna TV performance. Imagine him bringing all those acts and more together for one massive SNL blowout. ‘Twould be rad, even if you think he’s an asshole.
The chances: Despite his status as a Notorious Indie Celebrity, it’s unclear whether Diplo is a household name in mainstream America. Still, SNL likes to book internet-cool artists a few times a season, and Wesley Pentz’s recent pop success makes him a perfect fit.

Selena Gomez

The case: Gomez is coming off her highest-charting single ever (the A$AP Rocky duet “Good For You”) and her best single ever (the Charli XCX-penned “Same Old Love”). She is enjoying the cultural ubiquity that comes with being part of Taylor Swift’s squad. Barring some kind of surprise superstar album drop, her album Revival will almost certainly debut at #1 next month.
The chances: Unless SNL worries about skewing too pop after October’s run of Cyrus/Weeknd/Lovato, a Gomez appearance seems likely, maybe even pulling double duty as host and musical guest.

CHVRCHES

The case: Is there a bigger “indie” band in the world right now? CHVRCHES nabbed a major feature in just about every notable publication including this one, they have alt-rock radio hits galore despite not really being a rock band and only loosely qualifying as “alt,” and they just released a stellar sophomore album that affirms their place in the pantheon. Decades from now, when historians look back on the underground’s postmillennial embrace of pop, CHVRCHES will be the band they cite most frequently.
The chances: At this point CHVRCHES occupy a similar cultural space as Arcade Fire, Vampire Weekend, and HAIM, all of whom have played SNL. I’d bet on them.

Future

The case: In a piece about What A Time To Be Alive, The New York Times’ Jon Caramanica noted, “Future is perhaps the only rapper who could plausibly be said to be having a better 2015 than Drake.” Veering from the bid at outright pop stardom he was attempting in the lead-up to 2014’s Honest, he has become a true cultural monolith by serving the base with hard, bleary releases like DS2 and the mixtapes that led up to it. At this point the #FutureHive rolls almost as deep as his discography.
The chances: SNL is not completist about which rappers it books, but considering even fucking Big Sean has been on the show, Future seems like a reasonable possibility.

Halsey

The case: I made the case for Halsey’s budding stardom a few weeks ago; she seems like the type who can take trendy sounds and broad sentiments and turn them into what passes for generational statements.
The chances: It would be more likely if “New Americana” would cross over beyond Beats 1, but even without top 40 radio support, Halsey seems like the kind of youth culture figure SNL might book. I’d say this one is 50/50. UPDATE: “New Americana” actually has been getting top 40 radio spins, so there’s all the more reason for SNL to book her.

Tame Impala

The case: Kevin Parker’s group is one of the few active, in-their-prime rock bands that can headline festivals, top critics’ lists, and generally unify the masses. And as I tried to explain in our Tame Impala cover story, they just backed up that consensus with one of the best psych-pop albums in recent memory.
The chances: They’re pretty deep into the Currents album cycle at this point, so the timing might not be right, but damn if they don’t deserve it.

Chance The Rapper

The case: Chance gives away all his music for free, so there are no sales numbers to back up this assertion, but just attend any music festival where he’s playing and you will see that people love this man more than any young rapper in music today. You will also see why people love him: a warm charisma and effortless knack for verbal and physical acrobatics that suggest he was born to be a star. And it’s not just in Chicago, where he has performed for massive hometown crowds at Lollapalooza and Pitchfork; when I saw him rock the stage at Coachella 2014, the masses were losing their minds. Hopefully, SNL viewers will soon experience something similar. (Also, how awesome would it be if Lil B stopped by?)
The chances: No feat of entertainment success has yet proven to be outside Chance’s abilities.

Twenty One Pilots

The case: To a certain class of young people, Twenty One Pilots are the biggest band in the world. Their 2013 major-label debut, Vessel, never charted very high, but it sold consistently for more than two years. This year’s Blurryface debuted at #1 and his continued to move units just as consistently. Given their lack of media exposure, it might still be fair to call them a cult favorite, but they’re one of the most popular cult favorites in the world — and the cult just keeps growing.
The chances: Twenty One Pilots are huge, but they’re not cool, and they don’t have rave reviews or radio hits to put them on the self-consciously hip urbanite’s media radar. They’re like Chance The Rapper minus the critical acclaim. So somebody in the booking department would have to be tapped into realms not usually associated with SNL, but it could happen.

Run The Jewels

The case: El-P and Killer Mike made the greatest, most important album of last year, and they’ve stayed on a roll ever since. Thanks to factors like Nas’ blessing and Killer Mike’s CNN presence, they’re now famous enough to do stuff like goofy Colbert sketches, and whenever they go on TV they wreck shit. They are a national treasure, as I tried to explain in my Run The Jewels cover story last year. And by the time season 41 wraps up, they might even be promoting RTJ3. If not, would anyone complain about a televised Meow The Jewels performance?
The chances: I actually kind of like the chances. Everything else is going RTJ’s way; why not this?

Luke Bryan

The case: I’d rather see Eric Church or Sam Hunt up there, but those guys are wrapping up their album cycles, whereas Bryan is still riding high on his recent #1 Kill The Lights. He’s the biggest solo male star in a genre currently dominated by solo male stars — his only real competition in that category are Blake Shelton, who has already pulled a host/musical guest stint, and maybe Jason Aldean and Brad Paisley. But Bryan is the only one of those country bros who released one of the bestselling albums of 2015; his time has come.
The chances: SNL is relatively cool where country is concerned, so don’t bank on it.

Young Thug

The case: A revolutionary talent with untouchable charisma and actual hits, Thugger is one of the biggest SNL no-brainers in recent memory.
The chances: I’d imagine he’ll make his SNL debut around the time Hy!£UN3 actually comes out.

Kacey Musgraves

The case: At this point the media’s disproportionate obsession with Kacey Musgraves, as well as her latest album’s failure to meet our astronomical expectations, has obscured the fact that she actually is really good at crafting her slyly subversive form of traditionalist country. She’s a critical favorite who might actually be as popular with people who don’t usually listen to country as with genre zealots — the Deafheaven of her field, really — so basically she’s exactly the kind of country artist SNL is likely to book.
The chances: Don’t rule it out.

FKA twigs

The case: SNL loves art stars like twigs, plus she’s got tabloid appeal thanks to her romance with Robert Pattinson, plus she’s promoting a new EP, plus she has proven herself to be a remarkable performer on TV. You know she would pull out all the stops for this.
The chances: If I had to choose one sub-superstar sleeper pick for this season, twigs would be it.

J. Cole

The case: Among critics, the confidently corny Cole has long been the butt of many jokes, but all the while he’s been building a massive following. At this point he’s one of the 5-10 most popular rappers in the world, and his recent 2014 Forest Hills Drive was not half bad. Considering Cole’s populist style and headliner-level fame, it’s actually kind of crazy that he’s never been on SNL.
The chances: Unless he drops a new project next spring or lands some kind of big soundtrack placement a la Wiz Khalifa, the timing would be weird, but weirder things have happened.

Tobias Jesso Jr.

The case: Jesso is a mammoth talent who has been embraced by the music industry’s upper tiers in a way that reminds me of Sam Smith and Ed Sheeran’s ascents; the only difference is Jesso is on an indie label, and he doesn’t have radio hits. Given the media explosion around Goon and Adele’s endorsement and whatnot, I’m surprised Jesso didn’t make his way to SNL last spring, but I also wouldn’t be surprised to see him cap off his huge 2015 on TV’s most prominent stage. The cast members are probably big fans, and Jesso’s retro singer-songwriter style seems like it would jibe well with Lorne Michaels and the rest of SNL’s old guard.
The chances: I’d say Jesso is running at about 33 percent, and it would have to be before the end of 2015 unless one of his songs catches on at pop radio next year as slow-burning hits are wont to do.

Jeremih

The case: Given R. Kelly’s quasi-banishment from the front lines of the music industry, Jeremih could fairly be called Chicago’s reigning R&B lothario. He’s lent his voice to some of the best pop songs of the past two years — “Don’t Tell ‘Em,” “Planes,” Natalie La Rose’s “Somebody” — and if his eternally delayed Late Nights ever comes out, it’s bound to be a hit.
The chances: Jeremih is no lock for SNL — especially if he doesn’t have a current hit whenever his album finally drops — but consider him a longshot underdog worth rooting for.

Father John Misty

The case: Josh Tillman released one of 2015’s best albums back in February, he’s an arresting performer, and there’s been a significant uptick in his activities lately. And whatever I said about Jesso’s SNL appeal applies doubly to Father John Misty.
The chances: Unless someone in the SNL empire thought those mocking Ryan Adams/Taylor Swift covers were hilarious, the window might have closed on Misty until LP3.

Rae Sremmurd

The case: Brothers Swae Lee and Slim Jimmy comprise the most exciting new rap group on the radio, and they kicked off 2015 by releasing an all-killer, no-filler debut album that’s still producing hits at the dawn of Q4. Rae Sremmurd have remained in the public eye all year, so they make sense for SNL in a way that other acts who released projects earlier this year do not. They bring a bubbly, infectious presence that goes over well on TV. And shit, by the end of the season they might be promoting their next album.
The chances: Not a lock, but a distinct possibility.

Sufjan Stevens

The case: It’s not exactly shocking that Sufjan has never played SNL. During his initial peak of underground popularity, he was still too obscure for late-night TV. His Age Of Adz material was probably too weird for mainstream consumption. But now he’s back with a universally heralded instant classic with a familiar style and subject matter pretty much anyone can relate to.
The chances: I’m actually fairly certain SNL would book Sufjan if he was willing to do it, but I’m not sure he’d be willing.

Shamir

The case: Shamir Bailey is one of this year’s most universally beloved underground stars, his debut album is fire, and he embodies 2015 pop culture in a way few performers can claim.
The chances: Shamir is anonymous enough in the mainstream that SNL would be taking a big risk booking him, way more of a risk than booking St. Vincent or Haim or whatever. Even though I like to envision it happening, I don’t actually see it happening.

Jason Isbell

The case: Isbell is one of the most respected names in Americana, and he’s promoting yet another inspiring LP. Isbell does great on Austin City Limits and other TV gigs, and dads across America would be all-in after about a minute of “24 Frames.”
The chances: Isbell’s odds are probably only slightly higher than Shamir’s odds, but don’t discount that dad appeal.

Deerhunter

The case: If any band was going to top Fear’s legendarily chaotic SNL gig, Deerhunter is the one, although that kind of madness would have made more sense during the Monomania cycle — remember how electric they were on Fallon? Fading Frontier is a significantly mellower album, but Deerhunter are still one of the greatest bands on Earth, and any time they go on stage something awesome tends to happen.
The chances: I’d say there is about a 3 percent chance of this happening, but it’s still a chance.

CHART WATCH

What A Time To Be Alive! By moving 375,000 equivalent units of their joint mixtape-sold-for-money, Drake and Future have each scored their second #1 album of the year. The former released 2015’s bestselling album, If You’re Reading This It’s Too Late (which was also dubbed a mixtape but c’mon), in February; the latter shared his career-defining DS2 back in July. That 375K figure is the third best first-week units total of the year after IYRTITL and the Weeknd’s Beauty Behind The Madness; in terms of pure sales, only Drake’s other record beats this project’s 334,000. What A Time To Be Alive is Drake fifth #1 album overall, and its eight Hot 100 entries also make Drake the fourth performer with 100 career Hot 100 hits to his name — not bad for a little over six years in the mainstream.

It’s a huge week for debuts in the top 10 — seven in total. Had the Drake x Future project not materialized, Lana Del Rey’s #2 Honeymoon would have entered on top with 116,000 units. After the Weeknd staying strong at #3, Mac Miller’s GO:OD AM starts at #4 with 87,000. David Gilmour’s Rattle That Lock becomes the former Pink Floyd member’s highest-charting solo album, entering at #5 with 71,000. Rockers Shinedown debut at #6 with 65,000 for Threat Of Survival. Then comes the Ryan Adams version of Taylor Swift’s 1989, clocking 56,000 units to put it one spot ahead of Swift’s original version. After Luke Bryan’s #9 Kill The Lights is our final debut: Christian rapper Andy Mineo’s Uncomfortable begins at #10 with 35,000. (Sorry, Keith Richards, your Crosseyed Heart starts at #11.)

The singles chart is a lot less active, with the Weeknd’s “The Hills,” Justin Bieber’s “What Do You Mean,” and the Weeknd”s “Can’t Feel My Face” locked at 1-2-3. But there are a few interesting movers: Drake’s “Hotline Bling” climbs to #4, his best chart position since “Hold On We’re Going Home” 23 months back, and Billboard points out this means men from Ontario own the top four songs in America. Fetty Wap and Remy Boyz’ “679” reaches a new peak at #6, and Swift’s “Wildest Dreams” climbs to #10, becoming her 19th top-10 hit and fifth from 1989.

TRACK CITY

John Newman – “Run Away With Me” (Carly Rae Jepsen Cover)
In case you were wondering what one of 2015’s best pop songs would sound like with a lite-gospel arrangement and vocals by a bleating goat.

Rudimental – “Lay It All On Me” (Feat. Ed Sheeran)
Rudimental contributed to “Bloodstream,” one the most surprisingly enjoyable tracks from Sheeran’s blockbuster x. Now he’s returning the favor, lending his pub singer chops to the dance group’s latest club track. It’s a bit EDM-pop by numbers, not nearly as striking as fellow whitebread UK superstar Sam Smith’s collaborations with dance producers.

Troye Sivan – “Fools”
The second in a video trilogy, “Fools” tracks the adolescent years of the boyhood friends we met in “WILD.” The song makes good use of massive, wobbly synth lines, but I still think Sivan’s understated hooks are maybe a little too understated.

Panic! At The Disco – “Victorious”
The sound of Warped-core in 2015 is shockingly similar to the sound of blog-house circa 2007. Also, for better or worse, this band always feels one step behind Fall Out Boy, don’t they?

Grace Mitchell – “Bae” (Feat. S.Pri Noir)
Pop in 2015: “I know that he don’t play (dramatic pause…) ’cause he’s my bae,” in the style of the Weeknd.

NEWS IN BRIEF

  • The Grammy eligibility window closed this week, so maybe we’ll see a Taylor Swift 1989 vs. Ryan Adams 1989 showdown? [Mashable]
  • Speaking of Swift, here is a major scoop: She might not be completely transparent on social media. [TMZ]
  • Fox ordered Pitbull’s drama series. [Variety]
  • Meanwhile, NBC cancelled plans for Adam Levine’s ’70s miniseries. [THR]
  • Ariana Grande will guest on Andrea Bocelli’s next album. [ET]
  • Shakira and the Fray played for the Pope. [YouTube]
  • Fifth Harmony finally broke their legendary silence about Donald Trump. [Latina.com]
  • Here’s Kimbra impersonating Snow White for that new Disney comp. [Vimeo]
  • Pharrell donated a lot of children’s books. [ABC]
  • Josh Groban dated Miss Piggy on The Muppets. [Billboard]
  • Olly Murs pretended to be a wax figure. [YouTube]
  • Little Mix covered One Direction. [Capital FM]
  • Selena Gomez covered Magic! (their exclamation point, not mine). [YouTube]
  • Aaaand Halsey covered Biggie. (Maybe she’d have better luck with Nirvana?) [YouTube]
  • Kelly Clarkson is on vocal rest. [Rolling Stone]
  • Can someone get Sam Smith a damn cheeseburger? [TMZ]

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