Saturday Night Live: Where’s the Country?

SNL1674_BLAKE_SHELTON_FULL_EPISODEA couple weekends ago, Saturday Night Live gave a country musician the chance to host the show for the first time since Taylor Swift headlined in 2009. While the episode didn’t get the greatest ratings, it allowed Blake Shelton to get country music back onto an important musical stage. In an era where country music is put on the back burner to feature artists whose musical tours are more of a production than a performance, Blake Shelton may have opened the door for country to be featured on television again.

After realizing I hadn’t heard country music on SNL in recent memory, I stumbled upon a CMT timeline of country hosts and performers since the show’s inception in 1975. In the earlier years of Saturday Night Live, country artists were featured in higher frequency. In the year 1982, both Johnny Cash and Charlie Daniels Band performed on SNL within weeks of each other. Willie Nelson has been featured as both a musical guest and a host/participant. All three of these artists drew attention to country music through televised media, whether they were in a skit mocking country music or performing their songs to a sold-out crowd. However, only two artists performed on SNL in the entire decade of the 90s. So my question is, what happened?


The 90s might be a musical decade highlighted by the rise of stars like Britney Spears and *NSYNC, but many great country groups enjoyed sound careers during this time. Even since the rise of the boyband, Justin Timberlake has been featured on SNL multiple times. Trisha Yearwood’s “She’s In Love With The Boy” is a song I remember hearing as a kid, before I even got into country music. Alabama received multi-platinum success on several albums from the 80s through the 00s, but they were never a host or performance feature on the sketch-comedy show.

While country music is less popular than Top-40 style pop, the artists are frequently commended for their fan interaction and genuine persona in an industry in which these traits are few and far between. Wouldn’t a people-pleaser be a great choice for the host of SNL? Someone who could work well with others in a skit and is also able to give a great live performance at the end? I’d be curious to see what the producers of SNL have to say about their continued decisions of a lack of country music presence.


Filed under Live Music, Movies and TV, Reviews

3 Responses to Saturday Night Live: Where’s the Country?

  1. Marissa Gallardo

    The severe lack of country music on the stage of Saturday Night Live is surprising yet understandable. To add to your argument, Blake Shelton already works with NBC on the Voice, could this be a big reason to have him on? Taylor Swift, although “country”, is still significantly influenced by pop as well, not really being fully representative of country music. You also have to remember that Saturday Night Live is very liberal. I have watched years and years of SNL; I can’t count the number of slams against conservatives and liberal sketches in support of a certain presidential candidate. It is important to see the changes that they may be making currently, by adding more variety because SNL is going downhill from where it used to be. The cast is not as strong as previous years, and maybe Saturday Night Live thinks a little musical variety will create more conversation (which it is obviously by all the posts on just our class blog), draw in new fans and take a turn for a new direction in their 40th year!

  2. Marissa: Your comment makes me wonder if the reason there are so few country singers who have hosted SNL is that the country singers themselves are not interested. Maybe they’re concerned that doing that kind of “liberal” show will damage the “authentic country” persona they have created for themselves. If this is true, then Blake is either a sell-out or a trailblazer!

  3. P.S. What country singers would y’all like to see host SNL?

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