16 Artists Who Should Make Their SNL Debut This Year
After having its 45th season derailed by the pandemic, Saturday Night Live returns to Studio 8H this weekend for its first in-person broadcast since March. The host will be SNL alum Chris Rock, there to promote his starring role in the new season of Fargo, which I am anticipating far more feverishly than the new SNL season to be frank. Rock will have the honor of introducing musical guest Megan Thee Stallion, arguably the hottest rapper in America right now. Megan is coming off a summer in which she scored her first two #1 hits by teaming with Beyoncé and Cardi B (as a fan of grand spectacle, I’m crossing my fingers for guest appearances from both) and survived multiple gunshot wounds in a high-profile altercation. She has become a huge deal, and deservedly so — exactly the kind of newly minted superstar who SNL, a cultural yearbook of sorts whether you like it or not, should be anointing with an invite to their stage.
So, who else should be in line for their debut appearance on the show this season? Here are 16 suggestions.
His momentum has been building for several years now, but with My Turn (a mainstay of the Billboard 200 album chart’s top 10 since February) and the Black Lives Matter-inspired standalone single “The Bigger Picture,” sing-songy Atlanta rapper Lil Baby ascended to folk hero status in 2020. One look at his streaming numbers should be enough to convince Lorne Michaels this guy is an SNL-grade superstar, even without witnessing the personal gravity Baby now exudes.
The only rapper with a legitimate claim to a more successful 2020 than Megan Thee Stallion and Lil Baby is Roddy Ricch, who — between his own “The Box” and DaBaby’s “Rockstar” — has spent 18 weeks at #1 on the Billboard Hot 100 this year. His Mustard collaboration “Ballin'” has also been a rap radio staple, and his December 2019 debut album Please Excuse Me For Being Antisocial was the biggest smash of the pre-COVID era, returning to the top of the Billboard 200 in January around the time “The Box” was popping off.
BTS tend to be the first K-pop group to accomplish various feats of Western cultural saturation, and indeed, they became the scene’s first exports to perform on SNL last year. But with Blackpink mounting an intense promo campaign around this Friday’s The Album, including their own Netflix documentary, I wouldn’t be at all surprised to see the show book the galactically catchy girl group this fall — especially given the high likelihood that Selena Gomez would show up to perform their new collaborative single “Ice Cream.”
It’s easy to imagine this colorful, controversial rapper-singer being someone at SNL’s problematic fave, and I have to believe she’d pull some kind of stunt to ensure her performance was memorable. Since “Say So” was one of the biggest TikTok-boosted hits of the year, Doja may be ready to show feet at 30 Rock, but now that we’re well beyond that song’s moment, I could see her launching her next album cycle there.
SNL’s booking has skewed extremely mainstream in recent years, but historically the show has worked a few rising indie stars into its schedule. Bridgers is already beloved within the showbiz ranks, has forged connections with the comedy world via endeavors like her Matt Berninger duet from Between Two Ferns: The Movie, and seems organically popular in a way few of her peers can boast. She’d be a slam dunk.
Few urbano stars are as fun or as famous as our man Benito, who just last week took New York by storm with a virtual concert performed atop a bus driving through the city. He technically already appeared on SNL, acting opposite Kenan Thompson in a remote comedy sketch this past spring, but he deserves to be officially inaugurated into the lineage of musical guests.
Saturday Night Live has sometimes been a venue for performers with a lot of online buzz to break through to a mainstream audience. Both Lana Del Rey and Sam Smith played the show well before they became household names. I could see the nu-metal-loving pop star Rina Sawayama — who is more of a known quantity in her native Britain than here in the States — charting a similar trajectory.
My love for this college football quarterback turned rap-indebted country singer is well established. So are his bona fides as a consistent hit-maker and a deeply influential pioneer within his field. The endlessly clever “Hard To Forget” chased with the heartrending “2016” would be live television gold.
With the Diddy-assisted Twice As Tall, Nigerian star Burna Boy made a convincing foray into US mainstream stardom this summer. Still, despite percolating for a good solid decade now, the globally beloved Afrobeats community hasn’t been blessed with a platform like SNL yet.
Run The Jewels
It’s time. They may not be in heavy rotation or racking up insane streaming figures, but buddy-comedy progressive revolutionaries Killer Mike and El-P have long since ascended to that plane wherein everyone who’s familiar with them recognizes them as conquering heroes. They cut down on the dick jokes for RTJ4 too, so, yeah, the time is right. And if Lorne really needs convincing, Run The Jewels can roll deep with Pharrell and Zack De La Rocha in tow.
After all those Grammy wins and all that Obama love, it goes without saying that Brandi Carlile is an SNL-grade star. Fame aside, it also helps Carlile’s case that she’s among her generation’s most gifted singer-songwriters, capable of turning raw personal disclosures into profound generational statements.
Few artists can claim the combination of industry backing and grassroots fan support that Kehlani brings to the table. Not many of them have her voice, songwriting chops, or charisma either.
Lil Uzi Vert
You could have made a similar case circa “Bad And Boujee” or “XO TOUR Llif3,” but the feverish response to Uzi’s long-awaited Eternal Atake early this year is proof enough that rap’s weirdest rock star is overdue for his SNL moment.
Rosalía’s brilliant flamenco-infused future-pop dispatch El Mal Querer feels so long ago, and she’s become so much more famous since then — like, billions of YouTube views famous. Like, hanging out with Kylie Jenner famous. That last part makes me nervous, but it also suggests that Lorne can’t miss by booking Rosalía whenever her anticipated LP3 is ready to drop.
This masked queer outlaw country singer has already made the leap from Sub Pop to Columbia, duetted with Shania Twain, and been booked to open for Harry Styles at Madison Square Garden. An SNL appearance is only a matter of time.
I know, crazy right? Some way, somehow, Post Malone — easily one of the five biggest stars in music today, with an insane reach across cultures — hasn’t played SNL yet. Lorne needs this guy pulling double duty as host and musical guest like yesterday.
With 87,000 equivalent album units and 56,000 in sales, Taylor Swift’s Folklore has returned to #1 on the Billboard 200 albums chart for a seventh nonconsecutive week. Per Billboard, Swift has now spent 47 weeks overall at #1, surpassing Whitney Houston’s previous record of 46. The last album to spend more weeks at #1 was Drake’s Views, which posted 13 nonconsecutive weeks atop the chart back in 2016.
After Pop Smoke and YoungBoy Never Broke Again comes a #4 debut for Alicia Keys’ Alicia, with 62,000 units and 51,000 in sales. It’s her eighth top-10 album. Juice WRLD is at #5, followed by a #6 debut for Moneybagg Yo and Blac Youngsta’s Code Red. The collaborative LP posted just over 40,000 units, mostly via streaming. Keith Urban’s The Speed Of Now, Part 1 enters at #7 with 40,000 units and 27,000 in sales, becoming his eighth top-10 release. Hamilton is at #8, Lil Baby is at #9, and Lil Tecca’s Virgo World posts a #10 debut with 34,000 units — again, mostly due to streaming.
After being bumped to #2 for a couple weeks, BTS have reclaimed the #1 spot on the Hot 100 with “Dynamite” for a third nonconsecutive frame. This again knocks Cardi B and Megan Thee Stallion’s “WAP” down to #2. Justin Bieber and Chance The Rapper’s “Holy” makes a #3 debut, becoming Bieber’s 20th top-10 hit and Chance’s third (his other two were also Bieber collabs). Drake and Lil Durk’s “Laugh Now, Cry Later” is in at #4, followed by 24kGoldn and Iann Dior’s “Mood” at a new #5 peak. The rest of the top 10: DaBaby and Roddy Ricch’s “Rockstar,” the Weeknd’s “Blinding Lights” (ending its record-setting run of 28 weeks in the top 5), Harry Styles’ “Watermelon Sugar,” Jawsh 685 and Jason Derulo’s “Savage Love (Laxed – Siren Beat)” (which should be trending up thanks to a new BTS remix), and Gabby Barrett’s “I Hope.”
Zayn – “Better”
Now that he’s a dad, it sounds like Zayn has figured out how to make his favored adult contemporary R&B really sizzle.
Jennifer Lopez & Maluma – “Pa Ti + Lonely”
Also smooth as hell: This.
Bastille – “Survivin'”
“What can I say? I’m survivin'” is an extremely savvy hook for a late 2020 pop song, especially when matched with moody chords and an easygoing boom-bap beat. Normally Bastille do not interest me, but anyone doing this good of a 1975 impression have my attention.
Ashton Irwin – “Skinny Skinny”
It ain’t no “Skinny Love,” that’s for damn sure.
Vin Diesel – “Feel Like I Do”
What’s more surprising: Vin Diesel releasing a generic tropical house single, or that single being listenable?
NEWS IN BRIEF
- Demi Lovato is no longer engaged, which her fiancé learned from the tabloids. [TMZ]
- Strengthening my belief that “WAP” will be performed at full strength this weekend: Chris Rock once tried to get a Cardi B her own Comedy Central series. [Vulture]
- Billie Eilish announced a documentary, The World’s A Little Blurry, out in February. [Instagram]
- Doja Cat revealed the existence of an Ariana Grande collab. [Twitter]
- DaBaby is being sued by a California man who says the rapper beat him up on camera last year because he took a photo of him. [TMZ]
- Avril Lavigne is playing a livestream benefit for Global Lyme Alliance on 10/24. [Rolling Stone]
- Post Malone leads the 2020 Billboard Music Awards nominations with 16. [BBMAs]
- It’s BTS Week on Fallon. [EW]
- In related news, BTS’ new album BE (Deluxe Edition) is out 11/20. [EW]
- For this year’s Time 100 “most influential people” series, Taylor Swift wrote about Phoebe Waller Bridge, Elton John wrote about the Weekend, BTS wrote about Halsey, Taraji P. Henson wrote about Megan Thee Stallion, and Camila Cabello wrote about J Balvin. [Time]
- Dan + Shay, Ashley McBryde, Kelsea Ballerini, Luke Combs, Sam Hunt, and Thomas Rhett lead this year’s CMT Music Awards nominations with three each. [CMT]
- Selena Gomez broke down “Lose You To Love Me” on Song Exploder. [Song Exploder]
- Lizzo did a 73 Questions video with Vogue. [YouTube]
- Mandy Moore is pregnant with her first child. [Instagram]
- Justin Bieber and Chance The Rapper gave away $250k to people in need via Cash app on Thursday. [TMZ]
- Rihanna’s Savage x Fenty now makes underwear for men too. [GQ]