February 10, 2019
This week’s Saturday Night Live was hosted by Halsey, who was also the musical guest. She is far from the first person to pull double duty: Paul Simon did it all the way back in 1975; Donald Glover did it just last spring; and in 1978 when Elliot Gould did it, hosting as himself and performing in character as his musical alter ego, the whimsically named “Mick Jagger,” the stunt was so successful he was forced to continue playing the character for decades.
Halsey on SNL: She hosted, sang, and painted a giant upside-down portrait
But Halsey did break new ground Saturday night: For starters, she is probably the first person to use an SNL gig to call out an ex for cheating on her. The singer, whose real name is Ashley Nicolette Frangipane, has said that “Without Me” was written about her on-again, off-forever relationship with G-Eazy. So the brutal, Simpsons-style lighting change halfway through her stripped-down arrangement of the song, revealing that the walls of the set are covered with scribbled apologies for cheating—“in Minneapolis,” “at home in Los Angeles,” “more places I can’t even remember”—is not set dressing, it’s juicy celebrity gossip.

Halsey is also not the first musical guest to drop a celebrity gossip bombshell in the middle of a Saturday Night Live performance—it hasn’t even been a year since Cardi B used her set to reveal she was pregnant. But in her second set, Halsey pulled off one thing that no one has ever done on Saturday Night Live before and no one will ever do again: Painting an upside-down portrait, possibly of Halsey, while singing the Halsey song “Eastside.” Check it out:

While Halsey’s upside-down art skills are undeniably impressive, she’s also set the bar pretty high for next Saturday. Upcoming host Don Cheadle and musical guest Gary Clark Jr. now have less than a week to have high-profile celebrity romances and work up an all-singing, all-dancing, all-shooting salute to Chris Burden or whatever. Halsey’s decision to lean into the polymath thing seems like it might be an inflection point for Saturday Night Live. If we stoke the fires of celebrity one-upmanship enough, by the season finale we’ll have Clint Eastwood singing “Mambo No. 5” while careening around Studio 8H on a unicycle. Fingers crossed.
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