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'YOLO' gets redefined when Adam Levine hosts 'Saturday Night Live'

January 27, 2013|By Claire Zulkey
  • A scene from "You Only Live Once," a "Saturday Night Live" digital short.
A scene from "You Only Live Once," a "Saturday Night Live"… (NBC )

Cameron Diaz, Jerry Seinfeld and Danny McBride appeared Saturday night on “SNL,” hosted by Adam Levine, but former cast member Andy Samberg made the biggest splash as one of the night’s guest stars.

Samberg and the Lonely Island returned to shoot a short with Levine and musical guest Kendrick Lamar in the group’s signature hip-hop anthem style.

Giving “YOLO” a new, creepy definition, the song transforms the (some would say irritating) acronym for “you only live once” from a call for spontaneity into a safety warning.

“You know that we are still young / so don’t be dumb / don’t trust anyone,” Levine croons in the beginning of the song, which warns against doing illegal drugs and going to loud clubs “ ‘cause it’s bad for your ears.”

The song then takes an extreme turn, advising against using the banking system -- or any form of transportation, then grows darker as sound tips such as cooking meat " 'til it’s done" and financial advice get combined with wearing a straitjacket so “you’re safe from yourself” and removing teeth and fingerprints to escape detection. By the end, the band is glorifying a Howard Hughes lifestyle. Perhaps it will invigorate the economy with a surge in demand for YOLO-inspired bomb shelters and urine jars.

The episode also seemed to try to make up for last week’s Starbucks Verismo sketch, which some claimed had racist undertones, with voiceover characters depicting sassy, rude, incompetent coffee makers with black voices and “ethnic” names. The show's cold open featured a post-inaugural Barack Obama being visited by the ghost of Martin Luther King, Jr. But instead of discussing civil rights or politics, Dr. King primarily wants to discuss Beyonce’s beauty.

The moment seemed fraught: Was “SNL” really going to open its episode with a sketch all about how the civil rights leader’s ghost wanted to talk lasciviously about a young pop star? But then Kenan Thompson (as King) delivered the sketch’s thesis: “Why do I have to be serious and stately for all of eternity?” 

The King character also name-checked “Access Hollywood” and Twitter, not to mention Michelle Obama’s bangs, before asking when the world would see its first black magician, black king of England or black member of One Direction. The open seemed like a reassurance from the writers that while they are not tone-deaf to race issues on “SNL,” they don’t have to be deadly serious about them, either.

“SNL” returns live Feb. 9 with Justin Bieber.

ALSO:

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Did Beyonce lip-sync the national anthem at Obama's inaugural?

Martin Luther King Day highlighted with service projects and celebrations

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