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‘SNL’ Damage Report: How Badly Did Karmin Bomb?

Come back, Lizzy Grant, all is forgiven. Saturday Night Live played A&R executive once again this weekend by bringing out YouTube cover band Karmin. Oh, wait, why was everybody complaining about “Video Games” again?

Whitney Houston’s death the same night only put in exceptionally stark relief just what a ridiculous notion it was to assign a date with stardom for some weirdly perky couple that just happened to rack up (an admittedly insane number of) YouTube views for doing with songs by Chris Brown and Nicki Minaj essentially what Pat Boone did to Fats Domino and Little Richard. SNL acknowledged Houston’s death, sort of, by flashing a photo of the late pop queen from a long-ago appearance on the show. But when it came to musical guests, there could hardly have been more of a contrast.

Houston’s gospel-school vocal prowess and depth of expression were, of course, worlds away from the abilities of most singers — that’s why she was Whitney. And for better or worse, she never quite embraced hip-hop the way successors like Mariah Carey did. But if that’s her worst musical oversight, then it’s still inspiring to see that she actually stood for something, rather than shamelessly grasping for stardom by glomming onto a style she couldn’t love.

It doesn’t really matter whether or not Karmin love rap — clearly, they appear to enjoy performing the songs of Chris Brown and Nicki Minaj — but what they want so obviously it’s self-defeating is fame. The two songs they performed on Saturday night, “Brokenhearted” and “I Told You So,” were anonymously upbeat would-be club bangers co-written by the usual chart 40 hitmakers, the kind of hip-hop songs that use phrases like “hip-hop song.” Patron comes up more than is plausible.

Amy Heidemann’s proficiency at rapping really, really quickly is still. … well, it’s something. Nick Noonan is good at wearing shades and a leather jacket. They’re both better at stage-y song-ending poses than they are at songs.

This was hip-hop even Mitt Romney could enjoy, though he seems to have a little bit more personality. Oh, there was even a catchphrase: Uh, “Cheerio!”

Of course, the show’s host this weekend, Zooey Deschanel, also happens to be a musician when she’s not starring on TV show New Girl. One sketch, Bein’ Quirky With Zooey Deschanel, allowed the host to poke fun at herself — along with Michael Cera, Mary-Kate Olsen, and Kristen Wiig as Björk. Ukulele-backed hilarity ensued! (Deschanel also played a uke and sang as part of her opening monologue.)

The most widely viewed musical event of, well, ever also came up for its SNL mockery. M.I.A., LMFAO, and Madonna herself came up for parody in an interview with “Piers Morgan.” Deschanel played a Midwestern mother who is still inexplicably offended by “the M finger.”