Tonight’s Saturday Night Live musical guest was Khalid, and we think it took about two seconds to realize that he’s got a fire voice. We don’t know Khalid’s music all that well, but really we’re not all that much of a regular music-listener these days. SNL is usually a good barometer for who is successful in the industry today so we often trust some of their judgment.
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Khalid brought it with this song, a slow R&B number entitled “Talk” that utilized a live band, backing singers, and a simple stage presentation. The most vivid thing on the stage was his jacket, which actually seemed like a fire in its own right. He moved and slinked about the stage like a guy totally in command, even if he’d never performed on the show before. There was a level of comfort that drew you into what he was doing.
There are two things that we really look for in an SNL performance: Talent and understanding, with the latter meaning mostly “can you understand the purpose of the song?”. Luckily, we’re happening to say that we could, both lyrically and also in terms of what it meant to him. There was confidence to what he did, but also a sense of pleading, of hoping for something a little bit greater.
As for the second performance
Khalid came out here with a performance of “Better,” another intimate number with largely the same staging and background singers — the big differences came via the song choice, the outfit choice (no more orange jacket), and then also the lighting. This was more honed-in and focused. It was about Khalid letting his voice resonate through the stage and into the rows of the audience.
Tonight’s performances were a glorious throwback — a reminder that to be a good musical guest on SNL, frills can be meaningless. Sometimes, all you really need is to be able to come out on stage with a proper command of what you want to do and the talent to pull it off. Khalid is a singer — he sang. He took it seriously, and we think that he made many fans based on what we saw from him tonight. We hadn’t heard much from him, but we’d be interested in listening on the other side of this.
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