Saturday Night Live is one of the most sacred grounds for comedy fans and music lovers alike. Perhaps you may be one of the fans who knows your favorite musician can do musical and hosting duty, such as in the cases of Lady Gaga, Harry Styles, Nick Jonas and others.
Whether you watch SNL for its political satire or skip through the episode for the musical performance and musician cameos, it’s fair to say the program is iconic and has shown viewers incredible talents.
In celebration of women in comedy and music, here are the 10 best performances by female musicians who appeared as stellar musical guests on SNL throughout its 46 seasons.
We all know Halsey as an artist extraordinaire who can sing, paint and even craft a beautiful and inclusive makeup line. On her SNL appearance in 2019, she combined her music and fine arts skills to draw a self-portrait onstage as she sang her hit single “Eastside.” Frankly, it takes many people a few hours to make a few inches of a painting. Call her the modern-day Bob Ross after this cool aerial-view performance. Along with being a musical guest, Halsey was also the host in 2019 and shared in her monologue that she’s the singer that “angsty daughter[s]” listen to. Not only can she sing incredibly, but her comedic timing is also impeccable.
Phoebe Bridgers‘ performance may be one of the most widely discussed and highly viewed performances in SNL history due to the “controversy” surrounding it. Yes, it’s goofy that we even have to say that women in rock can and should smash guitars onstage, but some Twitter users weren’t a fan of Bridgers’ awesome “I Know The End” finale. (Talk about a double standard.) This Grammy-nominated star only had the best response to serve back to haters. She crushed it and will continue to crush, err, smash it.
Billie Eilish is always thinking outside the box, but for her SNL appearance in 2019, she actually performed in one to show her creativity. While singing “bad guy,” she gave us all an incredible optical illusion with flashing lights. On TV, it looked like Eilish was truly dancing on the ceiling. However, a behind-the-scenes video of Saturday Night Live shared how the performance came to be in all of its camera trick and technological glory.
Lady Gaga never disappoints with her performances, as her electric energy and enigmatic intuition come into play with every show. Her SNL guest spots have always been dynamic, especially when she sang “Judas” in 2011. Her gold-and-black color scheme and precision while dancing with her ensemble brought the whole scene together to create something straight from a major music award show. She made her SNL debut in 2009 and also stopped back in 2016. She returned to the show in 2013 as both a host and a musical guest, where she demonstrated her acting chops as an excited talent show mom, an Apple store employee and more. We hope to see her again as a musical guest and make a few cameos in the coming years.
Florence + The Machine
Florence + The Machine brought an indie-rock powerhouse performance to the famous late-night show stage. Lead singer Florence Welch beautifully belted “Shake It Out,” accompanied by a choir and her full band. Few have a voice as haunting, controlled and awe-inspiring as Welch, whose band also came back to the show in 2015 and performed “Ship To Wreck” and “What Kind Of Man.”
St. Vincent appeared on the show in 2014 and brought her quirky stage presence, unique sound and aesthetic to SNL with “Digital Witness” and “Birth In Reverse,” making her an artist you’ll definitely want to catch live if you haven’t. Her transformative setup, light show, synths and background instrumentals are both nostalgic and futuristic. Only someone like St. Vincent could make those two aspects sound seamless.
Brittany Howard (Alabama Shakes)
Brittany Howard, frontwoman of Alabama Shakes, has one hell of a rock ‘n’ roll voice and plays incredible guitar licks. The band emote pure soul in each of their tracks, but “Always Alright” has a guitar solo that you have to hear, especially if you’re a major classic-rock fan. You can check out the band play “Hold On,” “Don’t Wanna Fight” and “Gimme All Your Love” on the famous comedy stage as well.
Katy Perry has been a musical guest multiple times, appearing in 2010, 2013 and 2017. She even hosted in 2011. (In fact, she did a fabulous Welch impression in a song parody sketch as the host.) Every Perry production is out of this world, but her “Bon Appetit” performance in 2017 was incredibly unique and went above and beyond. Several camera angles showed off her movements and dancing on top of a long table covered with food. Then she invited Migos up to feature in the track. On the same show, she also performed “Swish Swish” and was joined by drag queens who were strutting their stuff and made the performance even more show-stopping. Overall, Perry is innovative no matter what and puts on a great show, whether she’s at Warped Tour or performing at the Super Bowl.
Megan Thee Stallion
Megan Thee Stallion transformed the stage into her own world with a black-and-white design for “Savage.” Having her backup dancers wear red wigs and black-and-white designs was a bold choice and an unforgettable show of the TikTok viral hip-hop track. Beyond the musical aspect, she used the platform to share an important message: Black Lives Matter. “We need to protect our Black women and love our Black women ’cause at the end of the day, we need our Black women,” she said. “We need to protect our Black men and stand up for our Black men ’cause at the end of the day, we’re tired of seeing hashtags about Black men.”