The Best SNL Music Performances of All Time

Best SNL Music Performances Mobile Images 1
Getty Images

Saturday Night Live has provided a platform for legendary musical acts since its inception. Today, we celebrate the best SNL music performances that have graced the iconic stage, showcasing an array of genres, raw emotions, and unforgettable moments. There's nothing quite like great music to go with some hilarious comedy on SNL. The best SNL music performances remind us of why they host musical guests on the show to begin with.

RELATED: The 15 Best 'Saturday Night Live' Skits, Ranked

15. Lil Wayne

Date: September 13, 2008

Lil Wayne's 2008 SNL performance demonstrated his immense talent and undeniable charisma, earning him a spot among the best SNL music performances. Weezy's energetic renditions of hits like "Lollipop" and "Got Money," showcased his signature wordplay and infectious flow. With his dynamic stage presence and ability to connect with the audience, Lil Wayne's performance left a lasting impression and further solidified his status as a hip-hop icon.

14. A Tribe Called Quest

Date: November 12, 2016

Legendary hip-hop group A Tribe Called Quest made a triumphant return to the SNL stage in 2016, delivering a powerful and poignant performance. With their socially conscious lyrics and infectious beats, the group performed songs from their then-new album, We Got It from Here... Thank You 4 Your Service, including "We the People..." and "The Space Program." Their performance not only showcased their immense talent but also provided an important commentary on contemporary issues, earning them a well-deserved spot among the best SNL music performances.

13. Tame Impala

Date: March 30, 2019

Australian psychedelic rocker Tame Impala delivered an enthralling performance on SNL, showcasing his unique blend of genres and captivating visual elements. Performing songs like "Patience" and "Borderline," Kevin Parker's smooth vocals and hypnotic grooves left the audience mesmerized, solidifying Tame Impala's place among the best SNL music performances.

12. Radiohead

Date: October 14, 2000

Radiohead's groundbreaking performance on SNL introduced their innovative sound to a wider audience. With captivating renditions of "The National Anthem" and "Idioteque," the band pushed the boundaries of music and established themselves as pioneers in their genre.

11. Kanye West

Date: October 1, 2005

Kanye West's 2005 appearance on SNL was a groundbreaking moment for the hip-hop artist, showcasing his innovative style and genre-defying approach to music. Kanye performed a stunning rendition of "Gold Digger," featuring a live string section, and an impassioned performance of "Touch The Sky" This performance highlighted Kanye's ability to captivate audiences with his unique artistry and served as an early glimpse into the multifaceted career that would follow, making it one of the best SNL music performances.

10. Drake

Date: May 14, 2016

Drake's SNL performance displayed his versatility as both a musician and an entertainer. He had the crowd moving to "One Dance" and "Hype," while also flexing his comedic chops in various sketches. Drake's charisma and multi-faceted talents shone brightly during this memorable episode.

9. Billie Eilish

Date: September 28, 2019

Billie Eilish's innovative SNL performances of "Bad Guy" and "I Love You" showcased her creativity and immense talent. With a visually stunning rotating set, Eilish's impressive vocals and unique artistic vision captivated viewers, solidifying her place among the best SNL music performances.

8. Dr. Dre, Snoop Dogg, and Eminem

Date: October 23, 1999

In a rare and unforgettable collaboration, hip-hop heavyweights Dr. Dre, Snoop Dogg, and Eminem came together for an electrifying SNL performance. The trio's dynamic stage presence and seamless blend of their individual styles created a high-energy atmosphere, as they performed hits like "Forgot About Dre" and "The Real Slim Shady." This powerhouse collaboration remains one of the most iconic moments in SNL music history.

7. Adele

Date: November 21, 2015

Adele's stunning SNL performance of "Hello" and "When We Were Young" showcased her powerful vocals and undeniable star quality. Her emotive delivery and the universal themes of her songs resonated with viewers, earning her a spot among the best SNL music performances.

6. Jay-Z

Date: December 16, 2000

Hip-hop icon Jay-Z's appearance on SNL was a masterclass in lyrical prowess and stage presence. With memorable renditions of hits, Jay-Z's performance demonstrated his ability to captivate audiences with his storytelling, flow, and charisma. His appearance on the show remains a standout moment in SNL's rich history of musical performances.

5. Prince

Date: February 21, 1981

The incomparable Prince wowed audiences with an electrifying SNL performance that showcased his unparalleled musicianship. Playing "Partyup," Prince demonstrated his virtuosity and unique artistic vision, leaving viewers in awe. It was a wild performance to say the least, as one of his bandmates even yelled "fuck" through the mic on air, accidentally.

4. Fear

Date: October 31, 1981

On Halloween night in 1981, punk rockers Fear caused an uproar with their chaotic and aggressive SNL appearance. Performing songs like "Beef Bologna" and "New York's Alright If You Like Saxophones," their unapologetic performance led to an infamous on-set riot, making this a legendary moment in SNL history.

3. LL Cool J

Date: October 24, 1987

At just 19 years of age, hip-hop legend LL Cool J delivered one of the best SNL music performances with a high-energy rendition of "Mama Said Knock You Out." His magnetic stage presence and powerful lyrics left a lasting impression on the audience, cementing his status as a genre-defining artist.

2. Neil Young

Date: September 30, 1989

The legendary Neil Young delivered one of the best SNL music performances with an impassioned rendition of "Rockin' in the Free World." Young's captivating stage presence and emotive voice left an indelible mark on the audience, reminding viewers why he's revered as a musical trailblazer.

1. Nirvana

Date: January 11, 1992

Kurt Cobain and Nirvana's blistering performance on SNL is etched into the annals of rock history. As they ripped through "Smells Like Teen Spirit" and "Territorial Pissings," their raw energy and unbridled passion took center stage. This unforgettable appearance catapulted the grunge movement to new heights and solidified Nirvana's status as genre-defining icons.

Did you like this article?
Thumbs Up
Thumbs Down