Sam Smith had some nerves to shake prior to his debut as musical guest on "Saturday Night Live." The British singer recently confessed to MTV News "I'm a little bit scared, because I haven't got my album out at all, so people don't really know who I am." Following last night's powerful pair of performances, if you hadn't heard of him before, you certainly will now.
Smith, who admits to "religiously" watching "SNL" back home in the UK, started with "Stay With Me." The power ballad is off of his upcoming In The Lonely Hour album, which he released a video for this week. A gospel choir backed his soulful bravado, echoing off the Studio 8H walls. Clad in black, Smith's performance was solitary and simple, pleading with the lyrics "Won't you stay with me?/ Cause you're all I need/ This ain't love it's clear to see/ But darling stay with me."
Returning in the dim light for "Lay Me Down," Smith's second run kept the haunting vocal isolation of the first. Standing between a piano player and lone cellist Smith let his powerful voice expand, somberly summoning the sadness of the song. But instead of sitting shy and humble as he did after the first set, Sam finally allowed himself a sheepish grin as he stepped back from the mic.
Lined up with comedian host Louis C.K., Smith's songs of love and sadness were a stark topical contrast to the comic's quick-wit sketches. Back for his second turn as host C.K. performed his opening monologue as a standup routine, covering heavy hitting subjects from "first world" hunger problems and starvation, to questioning the existence of heaven and God and examining gender differences between men and women in American democracy. Most of which were discussed in a mocking, stereotypical high-pitched dumb girl accent, which the comedian referred to as "his only impression voice."
Once the lineup started rolling, hot-button issues remained a recurring theme. A few sketches touched on feminism, while most notably "Black Jeopardy" showcased C.K. as a white African American studies professor competing against Keeley (Sasheer Zamata) and Amir (Jay Pharoah) in categories like "That Girl," "Psssh," and "White People." Kenan Thompson, in character as 'Alex Treblack,' moderated the racially-specialized gameshow. Check out the full clip below.
But it wasn't all gender, race and religion, the comedian also played along with the physical comedy of Beck Bennett's character as a CEO with the body of a baby, and C.K. later appeared in the brief but brilliant Chicago cop comedy "Dyke & Fats" (starring Kate McKinnon and Aidy Bryant).
As the show wrapped Louis C.K. gave a generously heartfelt goodnight from the stage, asking the audience "How good is Sam Smith?" A question that, for anyone who had been paying attention earlier in the night, needed no response.