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The Top Five Saturday Night Live Musician Impressions

The Top Five Saturday Night Live Musician Impressions

In the wake of the recent news that feted comedian/actor/YouTube sensation Jay Pharoah - above, known for his spoofs of A-list bait like Drake, Chris Tucker, 50 Cent, Jay-Z, Eddie Murphy, and President Obama - will join the cast of Saturday Night Live when its 36th season premieres September 25th, Rocks Off thought it'd be fun to take a look back at the late-night stalwart's best musician impersonations.

See here for Rocks Off's recent list of SNL's strangest musical moments. The worst musician impressions - a list topped by Kristin Wiig's cringe-inducing Bjork would top that particular list - will have to wait for another time.

Here are a few of our favorites.

The Top Five Saturday Night Live Musician Impressions

Dana Carvey as George Michael on "Weekend Update" February 25, 1989

Given Saturday Night Live's penchant for recycling material, it's shocking that the program's current creative brain trust hasn't resurrected Carvey's rant about his ass- "You can't hide from it! It's a force to be reckoned with! Accept it before it destroys you!" - for a send-up of Kim Kardashian or J.Lo. (Watch your, er, backside, Nicki Minaj.)

Phil Hartman as Frank Sinatra in "The Sinatra Group" January 19, 1991

In this MacLaughlin Group parody, Hartman's take on Sinatra was pitch-perfect - brusque, charming, crude, coiffed - even though the sketch didn't call on him to croon a single note. That's not to slight the other players and their impersonations (Chris Rock as an inarticulate Luther Campbell, Sting as a snarling Billy Idol) who helped elevate what could have been a dud to classic-skit cult status.

 

The Top Five Saturday Night Live Musician Impressions

Will Ferrell as Robert Goulet Various episodes, 2000-2005

With these impersonations, Ferrell managed the neat trick of emulating or paying homage to Goulet's smarmy, Vegas-strip persona, creating an pathologically insane Goulet doppelganger that could exist alongside the actual Goulet in the collective cultural imagination, and drove home the point that popular standards aren't quite what they used to be. Case in point: the sketch where Goulet covers rap hits/

Jimmy Fallon as Barry Gibb and Justin Timberlake as Robin Gibb, "The Barry Gibb Talk Show" Various episodes, 2003-2009

Of all of the musical impersonation sketches in SNL history, this series might be the most successful. It's not as though the show figured out how to make the BeeGees cool in a modern sense; that's pretty much impossible. It's that the show came out with a way to exploit the band's most annoying vocal tic - that bleating falsetto harmonizing, like geldings frolicking in heat or some shit - in a way that could be done again and again, if not too often.

Better yet, the underlying joke - speaking normally, but breaking into strangulated BeeGees song at random moments like a Tourettes victim - was something anyone could do at any time to crack up friends and family.

Jennifer Lopez as Rihanna in "We Are The World Reprise" Spoof February 27, 2010

One could argue that J.Lo's riff on Ri-Ri wasn't especially deep, inspired or studied, but it cut to the core of what people think of when they think about Rihanna - when they're not imagining her as Chris Brown's punching bag, that is. A couple robotic sways and digitally-enhanced "eh"s + a pair of ridiculous sunglasses + a ridiculous designer frock = point made.


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