Justin Bieber hosted Saturday Night Live for the first time last night. There was a lot of pressure riding on the 18 year old; many assuming and hoping that he would follow in the path of Justin Timberlake’s successful SNL career. Unfortunately or fortunately, that didn’t come true. The writing and material were mediocre like they have been all season, yes, but the episode didn’t take off because of that. The episode didn’t take off because Bieber was lazy.
Justin Timberlake is many things, but when he shows up to host Saturday Night Live, he SHOWS up. All of him. He sings, he dances, he makes love to Studio 8H. Justin Bieber did not show up last night. His musical performances were good, I’ll give him that (say what you want, but for me the stripped down version of “As Long As You Love Me” is always on point) but he was lazy. He didn’t care. He didn’t try. He acted as if the show was lucky to have him. More than that, it was all about him. Obviously it was going to be but this was more about redeeming Justin Bieber for the numerous “scandals” that have made headlines in the last few months than to show us he’s a triple threat performer.
I obviously expected him to make fun of himself and his scandals, of course, it comes with the territory when someone so high profile hosts (see: Taylor Swift, Bruno Mars, Miley Cyrus – all stellar episodes – etc…) but the way he went about it rubbed me the wrong way. And he didn’t have to try. He never has to really try because did you hear the girls screaming for him the entire show? Yes, I know that’s not uncommon for the female fans of young male performers, but they don’t care what Justin Bieber does. They don’t really care if he’s good or not because, and to quote some tweets, “OMG HE’S SO BEAUTIFUL” and that’s all that matters. It’s not unfair of me to say this. He had a lot of control over his episode – the hosts usually do – so this was the plan of action: let’s redeem Justin Bieber and not really try.
Now, I can’t completely hang him on the cross. The kid seemed game for a lot of the sketches. Unfortunately most of his characters were just different variations of a teenage boy, because it’s assumed he couldn’t play more than that? Or that his management wouldn’t let him? Maybe he couldn’t and they wouldn’t. The sketch of him spoofing himself with the Bieber-decoys was, for me, one of the highlights of the night. That isn’t saying much because it should’ve been SO much more than it was. I also didn’t hate the “Glice” sketch but only because Taran Killam is f-cking amazing and commits 100% to every character. And also: Whoopi makes everything better.
But…that was it. There was nothing to take away from that. When Miley Cyrus hosted I came away from it thinking she did an incredible job at mocking herself in her monologue and that she also hosted a very strong episode (she played Justin Bieber in a sketch. See?). When Taylor Swift hosted one of the stronger and more memorable episodes of the show in the last few years, I came away impressed and liking her (for a very brief period of time). When Bruno Mars, surprisingly, hosted what I’d consider one of the stronger episodes of this current season, I couldn’t wait for him to host it again. Again, it’s not unfair of me to compare him to these people – these are his colleagues, his competition.
Or, maybe, the episode failed because Justin Bieber isn’t funny. I assume this is why Beyonce has and probably will never host; she isn’t funny, or rather, doesn’t have comedic timing. Now, Taylor Swift is not the second of Lucille Ball, obviously, but she committed and she tried and she was convincing for a moment. Justin Bieber wasn’t committed, he didn’t try and he didn’t convince me of anything other than the fact that he doesn’t care because he doesn’t have to.