Did Drake just change the arc of his career on “Saturday Night Live”?


Drake with Bobby Moynihan and Jay Pharoah in a promo clip for “Saturday Night Live.”

There’s a bittersweetness to the close of every episode of “Saturday Night Live.” After cramming a week of hard work into 90 high-wire minutes, the cast is suddenly hugging good night to the sound of a wailing saxophone.

For fans of his music, Drake’s sign-off may have skewed bitter. On Saturday, the rap star hosted “SNL” for the first time and pretty much nailed it, making the evening feel like a significant career pivot. One of pop music’s most gifted brooders had officially entered the realm of the hyper-talented, hyper-endearing, hyper-famous, pretty-funny nice guys.

Former “SNL” cast member Jimmy Fallon and frequent “SNL” host Justin Timberlake already are members of this elite club of entertainers. And on Saturday, Drake did them proud with terrific impressions of Katt Williams, Lil Wayne and Steve Urkel — playing the last two simultaneously. He was exceedingly affable, his enthusiasm was through the roof, and during his second musical performance, he actually felt comfy enough to shout-out “SNL” creator Lorne Michaels. A first?

This wasn’t the same Drake we hear every 10 minutes on the radio — a guy who emotes about the isolating nature of celebrity with such eloquence that he’s eclipsed the fame of his most important influence, Kanye West.

And can you imagine West ever joining the nice-guy club? No way. In a December radio interview, West explained his defiant antagonism as a source of creative liberation: “The more and more likable you are, the less free you are.”

That level of self-awareness has made West the most vital pop musician of his generation. And because Drake seems every bit as self-aware, his “SNL” coup feels a little worrisome.

As Justin Timberlake proved twice this year, hyper-talented, hyper-endearing, hyper-famous, pretty-funny nice guys don’t always put out great albums.

Chris Richards became the Post's pop music critic in 2009. He has covered D.I.Y. house shows, White House concerts, go-go and Gaga.
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