Late night juggernaut Saturday Night Live debuted its 38th season this weekend — starting off its first season without Andy Samberg and Kristen Wiig since 2005 — with a bang.
The host was Seth MacFarlane, the animation king known for creating “Family Guy” and voicing many of the show’s main characters. For the first musical guest of the season, the show recruited Frank Ocean, whose debut album, “Channel Orange,” stirred up all kinds of discussion and was universally well received. Notably, Ocean brought John Mayer with him to play guitar.
Mayer played guitar for Ocean on his album, so bringing him along was a good musical move and a great way to stir up anticipation for their performance.
For his first song, Ocean performed “Thinkin Bout You,” a vocal-centric, R&B slow jam. While Ocean’s vocals were pitch perfect and full of emotion, Mayer spent most of his time away from the literal spotlight, playing his guitar and acting more like a part of the backing band than a featured performer. And for some apparent reason that must make sense to somebody at SNL, there were arcade machines in the background playing videos of Dig Dug and Tekken, or a similar fighting game.
After a few more sketches, Ocean re-took the stage and played “Pyramids.” Mayer was again featured, and at the end of the song, finally got to play a soulful solo … while the audience realized what the arcade machines were for, as Ocean decided to play one of them while Mayer was doing his thing. Ocean randomly meets Mayer in the video for the song, but this moment definitely eclipses it in weirdness. Watching it, you can almost hear the audience turning to making a confused face to the person next to them.
Oddities aside, Ocean was a great musical guest and Mayer was fun to have along. This combo got me thinking about other cool musical pairings that could be interesting to see on the SNL stage. Theoretically, these could actually happen because at least one part of these pairings has released material recently, is about to put something new out, or is still relevant in some way.
1. Animal Collective and The Flaming Lips’ Wayne Coyne
It might be extreme to have two full bands on the stage, but Coyne is enough of a performer to stick it out on his own with indie’s oddball sweethearts. Animal Collective just released a new album early this month, “Centipede Hz.,” and Coyne’s Flaming Lips are weird enough to be compatible with Animal Collective in a live setting.
Off the top of my head, the first thing I can think of this collaboration doing is to play a shortened version of the first part of the title track from The Flaming Lips’ 2002 album, “Yoshimi Battles The Pink Robots,” changing the second part of the song into an improvised instrumental section that maybe draws themes from songs fans of the groups might recognize and would sound cool to an SNL audience. Naturally, Coyne would have to take out the giant hamster ball he often crowdsurfs in.
2. Nickelback and Avril Lavigne
Solely to see the Internet’s reaction.
3. The xx and Trent Reznor
These two are like lighter and darker versions of the other, respectively, so it’d be neat to see the dynamic between them. Maybe The xx would play a poppier version of a Nine Inch Nails song and Reznor could make a dark techno version of something from The xx. This is the first time I’ve had these two acts in the same train of thought, but it just popped in my head and now it sounds like something I want to hear — a lot.
4. Tupac’s hologram and Rick Astley
Again, just to see the Internet’s reaction.
5. Neil Young and Weezer
I have this combo for one reason, so hear me out. I’m not talking about “Beverly Hills” Weezer; I’m talking about “Only In Dreams” Weezer. One of their deeper cuts, “Only In Dreams” is a bassy, 8-minute epic that spends its second half building to a beautiful explosion of guitar. I can see “Crazy Horse”-flavored Neil Young doing a “Cowgirl in the Sand”-like guitar solo over the build-up portion of “Only In Dreams.” Listen to both songs and you’ll see why this would be a musical wet dream for me.