JUSTIN TIMBERLAKE WORE GIANT CARTOON HANDS AND SANG A NELLY SONG DRESSED AS A ROLL OF WRAPPING PAPER AND BARRY GIBB WAS THERE (REALLY) AND PAUL McCARTNEY PLAYED A TINY HARMONICA AND MADONNA SHOWED UP FOR NO REASON AND I JUST HAVE A LOT OF FEELINGS.
THAT IS ALL.
I mean, it’s not, really. Last night’s Saturday Night Live was spectacular, from the goofy (and seasonally appropriate!) cold open down to the return of Jimmy Fallon and from Timberlake’s exceptional Bee Gees tribute to Timberlake’s solitary game of laser tag. The writers delivered riotous sketches, the cast was fantastic, Kate McKinnon not being the most famous comedienne in the country remains a mystery, and the Fallon/Timberlake repartee made for some of the most hilarious moments the show has seen in recent years. (Timberlake as Fallon in particular was pretty silly.) When the cast has a blast, it shows, and the Christmas episode of SNL goes down as one of the best executed and superlatively performed of the season without a doubt.
And then we got to Timberlake.
The last performer we saw break the mold from a visual standpoint on SNL was Kanye, whose jarring, dark performance for the world premiere of “Black Skinhead” remains one of the more notable music moments of 2013. Justin attempted a similar feat with “Only When I Walk Away” as he dodged between the kind of lasers that made your school photo background look wicked cool when you were in second grade. He sounded good, the guitar lines ripped in the back and the overall effect was one we’re not used to seeing from pop’s squeaky clean reigning prince, as we were too busy trying to pay attention to the music (and the words he was actually singing) as opposed to that molten stare and arsenal of flashy dance moves.
“Pair of Wings” was a stripped-down split from the super produced and tech-savvy song prior, with Timberlake resorting to his trademark crooning and the accompaniment of little more than some strings and an acoustic guitar. Contrast is key when you’ve got two songs to sing on the SNL stage — see: Miley — and as Timberlake has got the chops, his closing pick went off without a hitch. (Except for that girl who kept screaming “JUSTIIIIIIIIN!” like she was Paul Rudd in line at a One Direction concert. Honey, we know you’re excited, but indoor voices. You’re on a soundstage.)
That said, Timberlake showed up for work and gets gold stars for his performances, down to the very last scale and tortured facial expression, but not for the song choices. It’s the end of a year dominated by “Mirrors,” and yes, the dude already played it when he hosted SNL back in March, but one-upping it — or taking advantage of the company of the zillions of musical icons who joined him for the episode — would’ve trounced his previous efforts which were iconic on their own. Madonna was posting “buttstagrams” of The Barry Gibb Show, for chrissakes. You’re really telling me that had some over-the-top planning gone into it, she wouldn’t have hopped onstage for a duet? Or at least a line in one? Instead of taking the opportunity to eclipse expectations, Timberlake rested on the laurels he’s made for himself on the SNL stage, and in a weird way, it was disappointing to see him do so despite how awesome he was. It’s fun to be blown away, sure. It’s amazing when you’re blown away because the performance you just saw was better than you could’ve possibly dreamed of, and that’s the kind of standard Timberlake has not only chased in the past but defined. And it’s something he definitely didn’t do this time around on SNL.
So! The world fawned over Timberlake (and by proxy Fallon), and for good reason, but maybe they were settling for perfect when what they could’ve been watching was revolutionary. Either way, people got really excited about the return of the Timberlake/Fallon pairing and took to their Twitterfeeds like nobody’s business.
If you’re a really rich dude and you haven’t already installed Justin Timberlake’s 3D laser rave machine in your house, what are you doing
— Pablo S. Torre (@PabloTorre) December 22, 2013
Shhhhh don’t say that now Justin Timberlake is gonna start starring in action movieeees
I preferred the JT song where it looked like he was outfoxing a laser security system in Mission: Impossible #SNL
— Stuart Berman (@stuberman) December 22, 2013
That awkward moment when Justin Timberlake doesn’t even have a fan base because the whole world is his fan base basically.
— Awkward Life (@think_awkward) December 22, 2013
*wide-eyed and blushing emoji*
— Mike Hughes (@hughster1) December 22, 2013
COULD YOU IMAGINE
If I had one wish, I know what I would wish for: this song to end and Cry Me A River to start. #SNL
— Jensen Karp (@JensenClan88) December 22, 2013
I will consider the fact that he and Fallon did not do this the episode’s sole failure.
Justin Timberlake is a motorcycle ride on a green screen with Kim Kardashian away from going full Kanye on us. #SNL
— Matt Lindner (@mattlindner) December 22, 2013
A rare dousing of Timberlake haterade:
You guys Justin Timberlake is on SNL! Set your DVRs it might be a whole week before he makes another appearance.
— Danny Claus (@10InchesPlus) December 22, 2013
And for that, we are all sorry.
Justin Timberlake forgot that we all put part 2 of the 20/20 experience in the audio friend zone
— Desus (@desusnice) December 22, 2013
This doesn’t have anything to do with Justin Timberlake’s musical performances, I just want to draw attention to the fact that Denny’s tweeted about Kim Kardashian.
Kim Kardashian, known breakfast lover #SNL http://t.co/0Cx9JahoBp
— Denny’s (@DennysDiner) December 22, 2013
— Denny’s (@DennysDiner) December 22, 2013
JT’s last song is a reminder to men that “just b/c I’ve been silly all night, I can still have your girl if I want her.” #snl
— Derek Coburn (@cadredc) December 22, 2013
How about Timberlake does one of those tracks he wrote for Beyoncé instead. #SNL
— Courtney E. Smith (@courtneyesmith) December 22, 2013
We totally forgive you for that whole “Sound of Music Live” thing.
Everyone watching #SNL right now
— Pilar Clark (@daspilar) December 22, 2013
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