Album review: Taylor Swift, 1989

Taylor Swift 1989

Music/culture websites had a field day on Friday when Taylor Swift’s fifth album, 1989, leaked, three days before its official release date. The only thing that’s surprising about that, in 2014, is that it only leaked three days before it was due out.

iTunes Top 10Many posted links and reviews to the leaked album and the reactions have been generally favourable. On Monday night, Swift sat at No. 1, 2, 3, 4, 6, 7, 8, 9, and 10 positions on the iTunes chart, with Meghan Trainor’s “All About That Bass” at No. 5, the only song not off 1989 in the Top 13. The album’s deluxe and regular editions are in the No. 1 and 2 spots on the albums chart.

Swift has innate likability. On her latest appearance on Ellen, she spoke about inviting 89 fans to each of her five houses (four in the United States, one in London) for an album listening party. It didn’t come off braggadocious, or cocky, or insincere, or rude. I hope the success of 1989 (and it will be a huge hit) allows her to buy sixth, seventh and eighth houses!

Pop goes Taylor

1989 is the first Taylor Swift album Taylor Swift is referring to as officially pop. But let’s be real: She’s been dabbling in pop since 2008’s Fearless, with “You Belong With Me” and “Love Story,” and Red was barely country to begin with. My theory is that she’s referring to 1989 as full pop because she doesn’t want to get invited to the CMAs any more.

Pop sounds good on Swift (it has for some time), but 1989 is her most radio-ready album, which could very well produce half a dozen No. 1s. The album’s breezy and an easy listen – there are three-ish ballads, with most songs in the mid-tempo range – and even darker subject matters like breakups, jerk exes, become anthems that dare you not to sing along, like “Bad Blood,” on which Swift quips “Now we got bad blood / You know we used to be mad love” and later “Now we got problems / And I don’t think we can solve ‘em.” It’s fun, and she’s having fun throughout 1989, and it’s mostly infectious. Some of the songwriting, especially when compared to the emotional, rousing Red, is a bit too simple on 1989. She’s not really telling stories any more, but the songs are catchy as hell, and there are some memorable one-liners (off “Blank Space:” “Oh, my God, look at face / You look like my next mistake” and “I’m a nightmare dressed like a daydream”). But there’ll be no teardrops on your keyboard, dashboard, steering wheel, bed, or wherever else you’ll listen to 1989.

Where 1989 ranks in the Taylor Swift discography 

It’s a great pop album, but Swift’s released better collections. For my money, Red and Fearless are irreproachable, and it pains me (a bit) to rank Speak Now last, since it’s the reason we’re all blessed with “Dear John” and “Mean.”

The songs from 1989, ranked

13. Clean

12. This Love

11. How You Get the Girl

10. Welcome to New York

9. I Wish You Would

8. I Know Places

7. Blank Space

6. Out of the Woods

5. Shake It Off

4. All You Had To Do Was Stay

3. Wildest Dreams

2. Style

1. Bad Blood: Blast-in-your-car, sing-along kind of fun. This is also the angriest Swift gets on the album.

SNL recap: Jim Carrey and Iggy Azalea

SNL Jim Carrey

For the first time in a long time, I did not watch all of Saturday Night Live live.

It’s not because I didn’t think last night’s episode, hosted by SNL alum Jim Carrey, a staple of my childhood, wasn’t spectacular. And I wish I could say it’s because as a 20-something, I had plans outside my house with people my age; or that I was protesting the show’s decision to book the intolerable Iggy Azalea as musical guest.

The boring truth is that I have been getting up around the same time for the last month because of a (great) new job, and I didn’t want to mess up my sleep pattern too much. I knew I wouldn’t be staying up late enough to watch the whole episode, so I didn’t do a live blog for this episode like I’ve been doing almost every episode since last season. I tweeted some for the first hour or so of the show, but very distinctly remember shutting off Update during Bobby Moynihan’s latest appearance as Drunk Uncle.

I watched yesterday’s episode hosted by a fully committed and game Carrey this morning, skipping through commercials (I’m finally remembering that I am able to do this with the gizmo that is PVR) and Iggy Azalea , and continue to be impressed with this season of Saturday Night Live. The Carrey episode has been the best so far, mostly because of his infectious energy. It’s no surprise, then, that the weakest sketch of the night was the cold open, which mocked the Ebola Czar. It was the only sketch that was Carrey-less. I want to commend SNL for continuing to attempt to remain topical, but by Saturday, the jokes they do in these political cold opens have often been done to death by late-night hosts – heck, even Twitter. (Though maybe this is done on purpose, to make the dismal monologues they’ve been churning out this season – with the exception of the perfect Sarah Silverman monologue – look great by comparison.)

It was an odd night and a Halloween-themed episode; rather than grade each sketch, here are the three that are most worth your time:

Matthew McConaughey’s Lincoln commercials

They are so ridiculous, and so ripe for spoofing, and this was so unexpected an impersonation for Carrey, but it all came together and worked. Odd to the 10th power. See the sketch on YahooTV.

Carrey Family reunion

Basically what every conversation my cousins and I would have in the ’90s. The Carreys reunite (much like the Walkens have reunited on an SNL past) for a loving get-together full of classic one-liners from some of Carrey’s biggest film roles. See the sketch on YahooTV.

Office costume contest

Odd to the 50th power, but the physicality and commitment make this my favourite sketch of the night. In an office costume contest, Carrey and Kate McKinnon both show up as the dancer from Sia’s “Chandelier” music video. The tie-breaker is a dance-ff, and it’s a doozy. See the sketch on YahooTV.

What was your favourite sketch of the night?

Saturday Night Live continues to welcome its alum back next week, Nov. 1, with Chris Rock hosting. Prince will be the musical guest.

Film review: Sleeping Beauty Diamond Edition on Blu-Ray

The motivations of Maleficent, the villainess in the Disney classic Sleeping Beauty, always struck me as a tad exaggerated.

Does Maleficent really curse Princess Aurora to die (actually, just go into a never-ending sleep from which only true love’s kiss will wake/save her) because she didn’t get an invite to the baby’s big unveiling/party/sorta-baptism in King Stefan’s castle? That’s what I believed as a kid when I first watched it, and I kind of couldn’t get it out of my head watching it last week, in the crisp and gorgeous Blu-Ray edition of the film, out Oct. 7.

This Sleeping Beauty Diamond Edition set comes exactly six years after Disney released a Platinum Edition of the 1959 film. If you own that one, there may not be much for you here – but the movie’s never looked better. Ever. And I doubt it could ever be topped or improved. The restoration is, simply, beautiful.

We all know Sleeping Beauty: Princess Aurora is cursed by Maleficent that on her 16th birthday, she’ll prick her finger on a spindle and go into a deep sleep.

Younger Disney fans may have gotten their first taste of the Maleficent/Aurora story in Disney’s live-action villainess origin story Maleficent, starring Angelina Jolie and Elle Fanning. The production design, costumes, makeup and art in that film were eye-popping. Jolie, undoubtedly, had the cheekbones to play Maleficent, but the film just did not do it for me. It was CGI-heavy, often at the cost of the story. I do appreciate the twist the live-action version did on the ending. What struck me most in the animated Sleeping Beauty is how heroic Prince Phillip is made to seem, even though he barely does anything, and barely speaks. The fairies – Flora, Fauna and Merryweather – do most of the heavy lifting here.

Among the special features on the Diamond Edition set is a short documentary on the storied Disney villains, a staple of these animated films. The doc features new and archival interviews with the animators from FrozenThe Lion King and Aladdin. The set also has a deleted and alternate scene, which animation geeks will get a kick out of.

If animation is your jam, though, this Sleeping Beauty set is a no-brainer; the film has always been one of the most lushly and gorgeously animated Disney film, and this version is totally mind-blowing.

Sleeping Beauty

Birthday post: Time capsule 2014

Screen Shot 2014-10-12 at 1.08.34 AM

 

Here’s the fourth consecutive instalment of these birthday time capsule things I’ve been doing. You can read 2011, 2012 and 2013 by clicking on each year (come on, you know how hyperlinks work). I’m starting to convince myself this isn’t merely a vanity project, but a nice way to keep track of changes in the world. When I die, which, given my eating habits and sedentary lifestyle, is likely to happen by the end of the decade, the first and last entries I hope will at least be fun for future generations to read.

I can’t really complain about where I am right now, though. I’m truly and unironically #blessed.

Birthday breakfast: Froot Loops.

Birthday second breakfast: Breakfast poutine at one of my favourite diners in Montreal. (They emailed me a gift certificate for my birthday. Can we legally marry restaurants yet or are we still bigots?)

Price of gas: $1.354/litre.

In my Amazon cart: Nothing! But I have this massive 800-page book on the history of Saturday Night Live in my Indigo/Chapters cart.

Current job(s): I plead the fifth on this question in 2012, and didn’t bother including it in 2013, but I’m quite happy and very busy – oh, so, so busy – professionally. My only complaint would be that it’s harder for me to go to the movies during the day now.

No. 1 album on the Billboard 200: Blake Shelton’s latest, Bringing Back the Sunshine.

No. 1 song on the Billboard 100: The catchy “All About That Bass” by Meghan Trainor. It’s an all-women Top 5, btw. How often has that happened? Taylor Swift is No. 2 with “Shake It Off,” Iggy Azalea and Rita Ora are No. 3 with “Black Widow,” “Bang Bang” puts Jessie J, Ariana Grande and Nick Minaj at No. 4, and her Minajesty is also No. 5 with the great “Anaconda.”

No. 1 movie at the North American B.O.: For the second week in a row, David Fincher’s Gone Girl, a bonkers thriller and great adaptation of the Gillian Flynn novel.

Currently reading: Cheryl Strayed’s Wild, which I am seeing at the Festival du Nouveau Cinéma next weekend. (The novels I read are generally ones about to be adapted into a motion picture.)

I consider myself an expert at: Avoiding eye contact.

I wish I were more/less: More willing to speak up when I feel wronged/Less OK with being wronged.

Goal for Year 26: For 25, I wanted to use my passport at least once. I did! So I’m repeating that goal, but this time adding the caveat that it needs to be to go to a place I’ve never been.

I spent the day: Killing time while my car was being serviced at the worst place in the universe (I got a flat yesterday and the closest auto shop to my place is a Canadian Tire store); had two breakfasts; caught up on some PVR’ed shows I missed last week (what the what is going on with How to Get Away with Murder – too many characters!); watched the Japanese film House at home; will be seeing Nightcrawler tonight at the Festival du Nouveau Cinéma; dinner before or after the movie at TBD location; writing this/thanking everyone on social media for the well wishes; debating which two shows I will PVR tonight, and which I will catch on streaming some time this week (I went with The Good Wife, because duh, and The Walking Dead Season 5 première).

Twitter followers: 558.

SNL recap: Bill Hader and Hozier

Bill Hader SNL 2014

Bill Hader was on Saturday Night Live for eight years before he left at the end of the 2012-13 season, earning two Emmy nominations and creating countless memorable characters – and nailing impersonations of James Carville, Vincent Price and Al Pacino – during his run.

He’s back tonight, and we can expect that he’ll reprise his most famous characters (at the very least Stefon, who’ll descend upon the Weekend Update desk, heartbroken that his boo Seth Meyers is no longer there). Hozier will provide the music tonight, whose alt-rock hit “Take Me To Church” I once Shazamed during an episode of HBO’s The Leftovers.

There’s been no announcement of who’ll host the next episode of SNL, so that’ll be one thing to look out for tonight! As always, you can come back after the show for a full recap of what worked and what didn’t, and check out past SNL recaps.

Cold open: Bobby Moynihan is Kim Jong Un, addressing his subjects about his rumoured illnesses. The sketch lives and dies with Moynihan’s theatrics, and he’s so good at the physical comedy stuff that it almost distracts from the fact that the cold open had no jokes: Fact is indeed stranger than fiction. C

Monologue: Pleasantries, niceties, Bill’s nervous, yadi-yada, Kristen Wiig!!! It’s Bill’s dream to sing on SNL but his singing voice is low, like Harvey Fierstein low, and Wiig is his supposed hype man. Damn, is Wiig gonna steal this from Hader already? And there’s Fierstein! Hader’s likeable and this is a nice homecoming for him. He’ll have his chance to shine tonight. Right? B-

Herb Welch: The first of many, I am sure, returning characters for Hader. Welch is the jaded, cynical New York TV reporter who’s terrible at interviews and with people, and can barely report. Kinda great. A

The Group Hooper: A trailer for a teen movie that combines every teen-movie trope. It’s the joke version of all those terrible Jason Friedberg/Aaron Seltzer films. B+

Ohhhh, Jim Carrey will host the Oct. 25 episode.

Hollywood Game Night: I kinda love that the contestants are put together based on who the SNL cast can impersonate: Morgan Freeman, Al Pacino, Kathie Lee Gifford, Nick Offerman, Christoph Waltz and Sofia Vergara. Host Jane Lynch was played by the brilliant Kate McKinnon. The problem with these impersonation-heavy sketches is they rely on ticks, outbursts and over-the-topness for laughs, instead of, you know, jokes, plot and kooky situations. Wiig stealing it again, though, as Gifford. C

Help Fund: You know those commercials that tell people that “for 39 cents a day,” they can help a poor African village survive? Now imagine African villagers looked on and asked for more money. Like, why do you start so low, one asks. Instead of the price of a cup of coffee, why don’t you ask for 99 cents, the price of a can of Arizona Iced Tea, asks another. B-

Love Is A Dream/Jan Hooks tribute: So sweet, so nice, so classy. A

Hozier, “Take Me To Church”: It’s pronounced Ho-zier, like Hozier Daddy. I don’t know any other song by him, but this one’s pretty great. I first heard it on an episode of The Leftovers, which seriously did not get enough love this past summer. A

Weekend Update: The Update desk is really coming into its own. Three episodes in, the chemistry between Colin Jost and Michael Che hasn’t improved, per se, but it’s more because it doesn’t really exist. But each host is delivering; Che continues to get some killer lines, Jost gets more likeable every week. Pete Davidson had a great shot at delivering another winning sorta-monologue like he did in the season première, but he flubbed a few lines and seemed just a tad too pleased with himself when some of his jokes landed. The rest of Update was … was there any doubt? … Stefon, of course! Stefon doesn’t really do it for me as a character, but I do love Bill Hader as Stefon, especially since he’s said in interviews that the things he reads on air, he’s reading for the first time. It’s only Hader’s second homerun, though, and we’re at the halfway mark of the episode. B+

Puppets: Holy weirdness, Batman. A puppetry class taught by a happy-go-lucky instructor has a student who maybe needs therapy. Hader plays a Vietnam vet who’s obviously seen some things and is using his puppet (who looks and sounds just like him) to get by. B

Inside SoCal: If these Kyle Mooney videos are gonna be the new Digital Shorts, they’ll probably need to be more like this. I find these widely inconsistent week to week, but I loved this week’s. (But, hey, how about instead of having Cecily Strong, whom I love, play two Latinas this week, maybe …….. get a Latina on the show, Lorne). B+ 

Cat in the Hat: I’m gonna blame the elaborate costume and makeup for why this sketch is the last one of the night. Two bored kids summon the Cat in the Hat, who shows up and realizes their mom Linda is his ex. A

Etc.: Where was Vanessa Bayer tonight?; For real, Cecily Strong playing two Latinas this week highlights another diversity problem on the show; With Jim Carrey hosting the next new episode, it’ll be 3/4 hosts who were cast-members at one point – this makes it hard for new cast-members and characters to get chances to shine.

SNL recap: Sarah Silverman and Maroon 5

Saturday Night Live 40

This 40th season of Saturday Night Live is attracting huge names, with Chris Pratt having hosted last week, and SNL alum Bill Hader returns to host next week. There have also been reports that Jim Carrey will be back at some point this season (Dumb and Dumber To comes out Nov. 14 …)

This week, it’s Sarah Silverman who returns to SNL, though I hope her hosting gig is more memorable than her short tenure on the show in the ’90s.

Maroon 5 will be the musical guest tonight.

Join me on Twitter starting at 11:30 p.m. and come back at the end of the show for a full recap of the episode.

SNL Sarah Silverman Maroon 5

Cold open: Whose Obama impersonation do you prefer? Jay Pharoah’s on SNL or Jordan Peele on Key & Peele? I think Pharoah’s is a bit less of a caricature than Peele’s, but the political stuff on K&P blows SNL‘s out of the water. Tonight, Obama was on 60 Minutes discussing the social media strategies of ISIS. The sketch rested entirely on the shoulders of Pharoah and he couldn’t carry it all the way. C+

Monologue: “Is it really crazy? It kind of makes all the sense in the world.” Sarah Silverman’s a pretty big comedian, after all, so it really does make sense that she’s finally hosting SNL. Fresh off her Emmy win for her HBO stand-up special We Are All Miracles, she incorporated some jokes from her special with two hysterical gags that are setting the bar high for the rest of the season. First, she sat on an audience member’s lap, doling out life advice and fishing for compliments. Then, she answered questions from “plants,” SNL castmembers planted in the audience to ask the host a question. They were clips from Silverman’s time on SNL, and the questions were as non-sensical as they were funny: Will she release a solo album now that she’s left Wilson Phillips? There was absolutely no doubt Sarah Silverman would have been comfortable up there by herself, repurposing an act like Louis C.K. did last season. But this was inventive, hilarious and a great showcase for her style. 

The Fault in Our Stars 2: The Ebola in Our Everything: It’s The Fault in Our Stars, but instead of two teens with cancer, Theodore (Taran Killam) falls in love with Olive (Silverman), who doesn’t have cancer … She has Ebola. The surprise reveal gave this fake movie trailer legs, and it kept delivering until the very end. B+

Heaven Roast: If there’s anyone Joan Rivers would have deemed OK to impersonate her, it would be Sarah Silverman, who portrayed the late comedienne in the sketch. My favourite line was directed to Steve Jobs, whom Rivers wished would be made to buy a new coffin every six months. Silverman’s impersonation was good, but the jokes didn’t always land. In this case, it wasn’t parodying the format of the roast or roasts themselves; they merely moved the roast to Heaven. C

Whites: This is the kind of pre-recorded sketch that makes the live stuff look so weak in comparison. About how white people need to enjoy these last few decades of total domination, it was scathing and hilarious and timely. A

Supportive Women: A “forgotten TV gem” is a soap opera in which there is no conflict between the female characters, who support each other no matter what, even accidentally getting shot in the chest. C

Maroon 5 performs “Animals.” I think it’s commendable that Adam Levine still calls the band Maroon 5 and not, like, Adam Levine and the Maroon 5s. I like the set on this song and the light set up was really cool.

Weekend Update: Michael Che’s jokes were better this week, but Colin Jost’s delivery continues to improve. “Who goes to Africa *and* Texas?” asks Che about the first U.S. Ebola case. Update started heavy on politics, but settled into Ebola pretty quickly, having Kenan Thompson’s Rev. Al Sharpton rambling about Secret Service things and Ebola, again. Then something great happened. Jost turned to Che to ask him if “bae” was an appropriate word for him to use. No, Che said, because Jost is 30. Their interaction was nice and the first time in a long time the Update anchors didn’t feel and look like they were anchoring together/separately. Kudos. Then there was Kate McKinnon’s first appearance this episode. With Silverman, the duo was a feminist band, singing that everyone and everything is a woman, from Bill Maher, to Walt Disney (but Pixar is a pointed shoe).  B

Proud MaryOK, so it’s post-Update and there’s a certain expectation that the quality’ll take a dip at this point. The energy from all the performers (Cecily Strong, Sasheer Zamata and Silverman) was up, and the costumes and wigs were a nice visual gag, but I just didn’t think there was much else here. C-

Amsterdam: Rachel is picked up by her brother from the airport after a trip to Amsterdam during which she cheated on her boyfriend who’s hiding in the backseat waiting to propose! Blame lowered expectations becauses of the “Proud Mary” sketch … B

The December Generation: I don’t know about these Kyle Mooney sketches. One week they’re great, others less so. They’re always weird, though, of course, which is part of their charm. I just didn’t get this one, but I am glad Beck Bennett was asked back this season. I think he can fill the void left by Jason Sudeikis (white, great hair, can play corporate ass and terrible boyfriends) C-

Maroon 5 performs “Maps.”

Vitamix blender: Hey, now! There’s Vanessa Bayer showing off an a $650 blender that purees and juices without you needing to core! This was a cute way to end the night. Two women (who are not Supportive, like the women in an earlier sketch) argue over the unreasonable price of the blender. It’s not really funnier than it sounds, but it was kinda cute. B-

SNL recap: Chris Pratt and Ariana Grande

SNL Chris Pratt Ariana Grande

Saturday Night Live is back! The show’s 40th season premières tonight with host/new action star Chris Pratt (Guardians of the GalaxyParks and Recreation) and musical guest Ariana Grande.

As always, the summer saw lots of shakeups for the NBC show. Perhaps most notable is the unfortunate death of announcer Don Pardo. SNL alum Darrell Hammond will be introducing the cast from now on. There was also the hiring of Michael Che, who will join Colin Jost at the Weekend Update table. Cecily Strong remains on the cast (phew!), but has been relieved of her Update duties. Pete Davidson also joins SNL as a featured player, replacing three featured players who were not asked to return: John Milhiser, Noël Wells and Brooks Wheelan. Nasim Pedrad also left the show and she’ll star in the FOX sitcom Mulaney Sundays this fall starting Oct. 5. Mike O’Brien returns to the writers’ room after a season as a featured player.

Sarah Silverman and Bill Hader will be hosting the next two episodes, but tonight, it’s Chris Pratt’s first turn at bat, after a nutso news summer that I imagine is a comedy writer’s dream (NFL fiasco! White House on ISIS! Celebrity nude photo theft!).

Join me on Twitter starting at 11:30 p.m. and come back at the end of the show for a full recap of the episode.

Cold open: State of the Union with Candy Crowley, played by Aidy Bryant. The season’s off to a shaky start, with Bryant flubbing her lines a few times. Host Chris Pratt made an appearance as NFL commissioner Roger Goodell, thanking the people who stood by him in the last few weeks (Michael Vick, Redskins owner Dan Snyder, so he’s in OK company). B- 

Monologue: Chris Pratt is so at ease on stage and he just oozes charm. It didn’t quite make a great monologue, but he whipped out a guitar and talk-sang through a little song that he messed up twice, with a little appearance from his wife Anna Faris, a two-time SNL host herself. C for charm

Cialis Turnt: “You’re able to achieve an erection, but I need more than that. I need you to get turnt.” So you’ve got your ED medication, but does it make you turnt? Hopefully this is just a way for SNL to get “Turn Down For What” out of its system… C-

He-Man and Lion-O: A boy with no friends makes a birthday wish that his action figures were real. He blows a candle and Chris Pratt and Taran Killam show up as He-Man and Lion-O. They were more Tarzan than than “Woody and Buzz Lightyear” as the boy mentions. Mostly, I found the sketch juvenile and predictable and predictably juvenile. F

Animal hospital: It’s an odd sketch to do again and again since the punchline is always the same… Pet owners bring their furry and scaly and feathery friends to the worst animal hospital in the world and the incompetent staff ends up, somehow, killing them. Cecily Strong and Kate McKinnon almost make the sketch memorable. C+

Marvel movies: Jolting the episode back to life, these fake trailers for upcoming movies from Marvel, the studio that strikes gold with the most obscure adaptations, were spot on. I’d watch Bus People, and Pam, and Fancy Ghosts. A-

Ariana Grande started singing a stripped-down version of her hit “Break Free.” I’m a fan. Not a superfan, but I do like her. Her vocals were a bit shaky here, as they have been in many live performances of late. C+

Weekend Update: Silver lining of Cecily Strong leaving the Update desk: The Girl You Wish You Hadn’t Started a Conversation With at a Party is back, supposedly to talk about ebola. The relationship expert/single-girl Leslie Jones was hilarious, but the highlight was new featured player Pete Davidson talking about “when he was in high school, three years ago.” Sad/odd that the worst parts of Update were the news bits, but new Updater Michael Che and wooden Colin Jost redeemed it slightly with a pep talk for Barack Obama. The rest of his presidency probably won’t get better, but it can’t possibly get worse! B-

Aidy’s “Big Fat Ass:” There was an energy in this sketch that’s been missing from the episode so far. Aidy Bryant and Chris Pratt eye each other in a bar, but they’re nervous about talking, so they break into really inappropriate rap songs when they flirt. Aidy Bryant tonight is truly the MVP, though I’d make the case that she, Cecily Strong and Kate McKinnon will carry the series through this 40th season. B-

Sitcom Bad Boys: These Kyle Mooney sketches don’t always do it for me, but this one was great. So absurd, so strange, so funny: Chris Pratt gets involved with a street gang (four pre-teens) and starts rebelling – he comes home too late to watch his favourite show and plays with a ball inside the house. B

New NFL lineups: This sketch looked so much like one they do on Key & Peele, about ridiculous names in football, that I just wished I was watching that instead of this, a sketch in which football players would also mention which crimes they’ve committed in their on-air introductions. D

Ariana Grande is joined on stage by The Weeknd for “Love Me Harder,” one of my favourite tracks from her sophomore album My Everything. She was outshone vocally by The Weeknd, to be honest, but it’s a nice duet. B+

Video-game testers: I love Chris Pratt and Parks and Rec proves he’s great at the physical comedy bits. This sketch showed that, too, as did his He-Man crashing through walls. But this sketch was painfully unfunny, about three video-game testers tasked with reviewing a terrible puzzle game in which the characters make out – inappropriately, unexpectedly – every time a level is completed. D- 

Stray observations: Is it just me, or are castmembers blatantly reading their lines off cue cards?; It would be nice to see Michael Che and Colin Jost in more than just Update; The cast is huge and with big-name hosts next week and the week after, I hope we’ll get to see more of Kate McKinnon and Sasheer Zamata; The show doesn’t seem too interested in being super topical politically anymore, but if it’s going to tackle culture, it’ll have to do better than having two NFL sketches in one night.