Filling the highly coveted role of host/musical artist, legendary Harry Styles made his return to Saturday Night Live last week amidst much anticipation – heightened significantly when the pre-released clip saw Styles and Kenan Thompson frolicking amongst autumn leaves in arguably one of the most wholesome images SNL has ever seen. Styles’ previous appearances in SNL sketches have of course shown an adeptness for comedy, but in a show dominated by him, this is inescapably clear.
Appearing in numerous sketches throughout the show, Styles demonstrates an adaptability and versatility in his comedic acting that we haven’t really been exposed to before – on previous SNL appearances, his roles have arguably been somewhat predictable, but here he shows that he is not just confined to one role. Instead, his roles on this episode of SNL couldn’t be further apart; from a dog transformed into a man for an hour in ‘Joan Song’ to a naïve intern on ‘Lunch Run’ to a sheepish social media assistant thirsting over Nick Jonas, it is an entirely different Styles in every role.
Whilst a great deal of artists who take up double duty on SNL favour performing their monologue as a song (take Chance the Rapper’s excellent show as an example), Styles prefers a typical speech which showcases his own dry humour and genius comedic timing, as he mocks talk of his love life, teases a Zayn-less One Direction reunion and more all whilst wearing perhaps the snazziest pair of yellow trousers the world has seen. They’re stunning.
Arguably one of the funniest sketches of the night was ‘Funeral DJs’ purely for the complete ups and downs it drags you on and the fervent awkwardness as Styles and Chris Redd crash a funeral as ‘DJ Casket Twins’. This serves to illuminate how Styles seems suited to larger than life characters – he truly comes into his own when he is playing ridiculous parts, and it is magical to see. He is of course still great as a background character, in sketches like ‘That’s The Game’, which is in some senses funnier, perhaps because of the distinctly Key & Peele feel to it. However, the only reason Styles really stands out in this one is because his character has such a strong vibe of the “bad boy Harry” of beloved 2013 fanfictions – old school fans may be quaking at the thought, but there is no denying that as a natural performer, his acting capacities are done much more justice when he has room to bring his vibrancy to a character completely.
As the musical guest, Styles debuted new single ahead of the release of his long-awaited second album, ‘Watermelon Sugar’, which was undoubtedly a highlight. Indeed, Styles proved his talent stretches across multiple feats throughout the night, but his musical talent remains incomparable. Rippling with summer-tinged nostalgia, ‘Watermelon Sugar’ is effortlessly cool in its infectiousness, and seemingly quite different to the first single from Fine Line, ‘Lights Up’. His performance of ‘Lights Up’ took a drastically stripped back turn – showcasing Styles’ inimitably soaring vocals, this is a live return like no other. After disappearing to record the upcoming album, this is one of the first performances since his re-emergence, and if anything, it proves his talent has not waned in the slightest – he’s back and better than ever.
He may say that he’s “pretty much down for anything”, but it’s beyond that – it seems Styles is pretty much capable of anything. Often disregarded for his boyband origins, there’s a sense of him not being taken seriously at times, as he satirises in his monologue. But with the capacities of skill and talent he showcased on Saturday Night Live, Styles seems determined to shatter these low expectations of him. Yes, his musical skill is forever going to be his strongest suit, but his capability at acting and comedy only seem to be highlighted with his performance here, proving once and for all that he is much more than a pretty face – rather, one of the most talented artists around right now in all respects.
Image Credit: IndieWire