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The tradition of musical guests performing on Saturday Night Live is as long-running as the show itself. Newer artists who play the show often find tons of new fans and can take their invitation to perform on SNL as a sign that they’ve truly made it big. Veteran artists can use their performance to remind the public that they still exist and promote anything new they’re up to.
The spectrum of artists who have performed on SNL recently is so diverse that it can be tough to keep track of them all. Here’s our guide to SNL’s most interesting recent performers (plus one upcoming one), how they got big enough to play SNL in the first place, and what else they have going on right now.
Maggie Rogers (November 10, 2018, with host Jonah Hill)
Maggie Rogers wouldn’t be where she is today without the internet’s ability to create viral crazes. She was a New York University student in 2016 when legendary musician and producer Pharrell Williams visited her class to constructively critique students. When it came time for him to tell Rogers how to improve, though, he couldn’t – instead, he only had positive things to say. His stunned reaction to her song “Alaska” went viral, launching Rogers’ instantly-massive career.
By the end of last year, shortly after her SNL appearance, Rogers had already played Madison Square Garden – and it was only January of this year that she released her debut album, Heard It In A Past Life. Rogers will hit the road again on March 20th; she’ll tour in venues remarkably large for an artist with only one released album.
Anderson .Paak (December 1, 2018, with host Claire Foy)
Born Brandon Paak Anderson, this rapper hit the SNL stage late last year after a momentous, non-stop few years that took him from Dr. Dre’s personal favorite to nationally-revered musician. In January 2016, .Paak released his sophomore album, Malibu, to enthusiastic reviews from almost every publication that heard it, and his fan base grew exponentially as the year progressed. By the time he released his third album, Oxnard, in November 2018, he was big enough to have Kendrick Lamar and Snoop Dogg lay down guest verses on his songs.
Those who saw .Paak’s SNL performance got to see why he’s risen so rapidly: on stage, he raps, sings, dances, and plays drums, often all during the same song – and he’s amazing at all of them. He’ll release his next album, Ventura, on April 12th, and he just yesterday began a tour that will run through the summer.
Tame Impala (March 30, 2019, with host Sandra Oh)
In the modern age, hip-hop is almost inarguably the most popular genre in mainstream music. Previously, though, rock bands instead dictated the shape of popular music. Tame Impala seems to be the only rock band directly informing the mainstream, so many critics have suggested that Tame Impala is the one true rock band left.
The Australian band is arguably the only rock band that gets bigger and bigger with each of its releases, all while consistently wowing critics with their unique blend of psychedelic and pop music. Currents, the band’s most recent album, added dance music into the equation, and it was this change that launched the group into higher mainstream esteem than any other rock band to debut this decade. The band’s upcoming SNL set is expected to include the band’s first new music since Currents, which was released all the way back in 2015. Since then, thanks to the album’s success, frontman Kevin Parker has kept busy producing for pop stars such as Kali Uchis, Mark Ronson, and Lady Gaga.
What other recent SNL musical guests have you loved? Let us know in the comments!