Jason Aldean is going to grab the headlines this morning, but he wasn't the only chart-topping musician on Saturday Night Live this week.
Sam Smith made his second appearance on the set at Studio 8H to promote his upcoming sophomore album, The Thrill Of It All, which is due out November 3. He performed the album's two lead singles, the stone-faced lament "Too Good At Goodbyes" and atheist hymn "Pray."
Smith opened with "Too Good At Goodbyes," taking the stage in what looked like pleated pants and a tight, tucked-in mix of green-orange and burgundy up top. Frankly, it stole the show and I had to watch the clip twice to actually register the song.
"Pray" was a different story. If Aldean's show-opening cover of Tom Petty's "I Won't Back Down" channeled one common response to the Las Vegas shooting, "Pray" encapsulated the other. The lyrics paint a vignette of a non-believer so desperate for help that he's willing to take that leap of faith.
It's a genuinely affecting piece of pop. Here are the pertinent lyrics:
"I lift up my head and the world is on fire / There's dread in my heart and fear in my bones / And I just don't know what to say / Maybe I'll pray, pray / Maybe I'll pray / I have never believed in You, no / But I'm gonna pray."
The makeshift choir behind Smith punctuated the most moving moments of the song, especially during the song's defining line: "Everyone prays in the end."
It can't go without mentioning that it's a remarkable coincidence that Smith's long-scheduled appearance on SNL coincided with the unlikely performance of the song that inspired Smith's biggest hit: In 2015, Smith handed over 12.5 percent of his earnings for "Stay With Me" because of its similarities to Tom Petty's "I Won't Back Down."