Rihanna was on Saturday Night Live over the weekend to perform her blindingly bright new single “Diamonds” and then new and truly beautiful Unapologetic track called “Stay.” On the album she’ll be joined by space-y singer/songwriter Mikky Ekko, but she stood alone on the SNL sound stage, with only a spare piano line and the occasional cymbal flourish to back her new-found voice.
“Stay” is a rare Rihanna ballad, and a patient and particularly emotive one at that. With the past few records, Rihanna’s found her grove with the sort of literally dazzling dance track that “Diamonds” is, tracks that make good on her unique but not not exactly impactful voice. But when “Diamonds” came out, we noticed that she was experimenting with her vocals and sounding at times almost like Sia or Lana Del Rey. She took that one step further with “Stay,” a song that finally has her really singing. And so she might still be singing about Chris Brown (“Not really sure how to feel about it / Something in the way you move / Makes me feel like I can’t live without you / And it takes me all the way / I want you to stay.”), but at least she’s doing it in a different way. We just even more excited about Apologetic‘s release next week.
Silly as it may be to have Louis C.K. introduce them as such, fun. really are exactly that: fun. They’re sound is always tight and their performances heartfelt, and frontman Nate Ruess inevitably winds up bouncing around the stage like it’s electrified. Their performance on Saturday Night Live over the weekend proved no exception, as it was necessarily spirited for a city still wringing itself out after a week of scary weather.
His trench coat on (can’t knock the preparedness) and his hair a tad unkempt (but who are we to judge, we only peeled-off our hurricane leggings this morning), Ruess belted out the indie-pop trio’s latest and buzzy chart entry “Some Nights,” playing with auto-tune at the end for longer than usual, before signing off with their appropriately resilient “Carry On.”
Bruno Mars put in extra-overtime on Saturday Night Live over the weekend, hosting and performing. Mars isn’t the first to pull this double duty — Taylor Swift, Mick Jagger and Justin Timberlake, in most recent memory — but he may have been the first to host, perform and to still have the energy to debut a brand new song all in the same episode. How’s that for efficiency?
The new Unorthodox Jukebox cut Mars performed is called “Young Wild Girls,” an emotional ballad about the bad girls that Mars just can’t quit. “Oh you young wild girls, you make a mess of me,” goes the hook. And then when the camera gets close, you can see the strain of the veins in his neck and the sweat beginning to bead on his forehead because this love for these young wild girls is nothing short of dire: “Yeah you young wild girls, you’ll be the death of me.”
Having proven too tempting last week for Frank Ocean, producers seem to have removed all those cool vintage video games from the Saturday Night Live sound stage. And so instead, in line together at the front of the stage, Mumford & Sons played their performance without any of the skit show’s gimmick and earnest like they’re wont to be. They galloped first through a brass-backed version of “I Will Wait,” and then they returned for “Below My Feet,” something new off of their long awaited sophomore album Babel, which is out tomorrow. Mumford frontman Marcus mostly led the later, looking tired but dapper in his neck-tie and suit vest combo, playing his guitar and the kick drum simultaneously as he wailed along: “Let me learn from where I’ve been, keep my eyes to serve, my hands to learn.” Those tuned-in who weren’t already on board with Mumfordmania were surely won over. Read more…
One of examples of Frank Ocean‘s superb songwriting/storytelling skills is his imagination. Pyramids are usually automatically associated with Egypt by default, but Frank being anything but ordinary turned “Pyramids” into the place where strippers dwell. A day after kicking off Saturday Night Live‘s 15th season with a live performance accompanied by John Mayer, the visual to his wildly popular “Pyramids” hit the ‘net. And as expected, alas, there are strippers. Directed by Nabil, the eight minute video owes its aesthetic appeal to the numerous special effects. The bending lamp posts, the multiple Frank Oceans, the blinking fluorescent lights, they are all somewhat mesmerizing. John Mayer’s guitar performance in the middle of the desert is easily one of the highlights. Although the strippers are the focal point of the song, they serve as merely a backdrop in the video, despite their obvious presence. Now that we’ve seen the women “working at the pyramids tonight” the mystique is gone, for now. Until the next time you watch the video. Have a look at some of the awesome gifs from the video. Read more…
Frank Ocean kicked off Saturday Night Live‘s 15th season with two stellar showings. As predicted, he performed a stripped down and extra-soulful “Thinkin Bout You” and then the second half of his stripper anthem “Pyramids,” his “bro” John Mayer accompanying on the guitar for both and a full vintage arcade set up behind him. Ocean still seems a little timid when he performs, and sort of like he did in that oddly straight-faced promo, he fidgeted nervously through the first verse of “Thinkin Bout You.” He’s good, though, and so as soon as he loosened up he was able to turn song’s difficult high notes sweet.
Already warmed up, he showed off a little more swag during “Pyramids,” showing some teeth and pulling a few dance moves. And when Mayer went in on his loopy solo (extra guitar face so you know it’s real), Ocean made use of the time to fiddle with some of those vintage arcade games before giving the crowd one last smile and calling it a night.
Watch “Thinkin Bout You” above, and “Pyramids” and the video game playing below.
You might say that Frank Ocean is playing it extra-cool in the promo video for his upcoming appearance on Saturday Night Life. Fred Armisen and host Seth MacFarlane play nice together in the video, dueling their various funny voices and making small talk. As for Ocean, he whiles away the short promo, scratching his chin, nodding his head a few times — in agreement or to keep awake? — and rolling his eyes at the Family Guy creator. His only line? “Not cool, Seth.” Arriving on the scene as the sweet singing elder (though hardly old) member of the wily rap crew Odd Future, Ocean has always struck us as a many of few but poignant words, and so we have to assume that he really meant something by each of those three words. We’ll just have to tune in to Ocean’s “bro”-ified SNL debut tomorrow to find out what.
Ocean tweeted the good news this morning, writing “SNL this weekend. Me and the bro John Mayer.” And though nothing has been officially confirmed, he’s got the internet alight with possibilities. Maybe Ocean and his “bro” will do something with “White,” that smooth grooving Channel Orange interlude. Perhaps more likely, the two will perform Ocean’s 10-minute ode to strippers, “Pyramids,” which ends with an uncredited Mayer guitar solo. Otherwise, Mayer could probably do some good to “Thinking About You,” which Ocean played acoustic at VMAs; or maybe he could bring his maybe-girlfriend Katy Perry along for the “Sweet Life”/”California Gurls” medley that we just realized we need. Because — not sugar-free — mango, peaches and whipped cream bras, wouldn’t that be something?
Frank Ocean felt horribly about cancelling a string of European festival tour dates where he was scheduled to take the stage with Coldplay. Along the way Frank has picked up a couple of new gigs, including performing at this year’s 2012 VMAs where we secretly hope he gives us a visual to “Pyramids.” On September 15th, FO will serve as the musical guest for Saturday Night Live’s premiere episode for its 38th season. Wowzers. Can you believe SNL has been around for 38 seasons? The success of Frank’s Channel Orange is shaping up for one blast of a year for the R&B newbie. Read more…
“Got no drink in my hand but I’m wasted/Getting drunk on the thought of you naked,” Usher declares early on his newest club banger, “Scream.” This energetic track seems poised to join the likes of Usher’s previous smash singles like “Yeah!” and “OMG” as huge summer radio hits, while his slow-burning, Diplo-collab “Climax” —which has been out for a few months now— is currently sitting at #1 on the Billboard R&B/Hip-Hop Songs chart. Is this going to be the Summer of Usher? We have yet to hit Memorial Day, but at this point, it sure looks like it. Read more…