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While Jason Aldean cold-opened this weekend’s episode of NBC’s Saturday Night Live with a somber, powerful performance of Tom Petty’s “I Won’t Back Down” that simultaneously paid tribute to the late rocker and the 58 lives lost after a gunman opened fire during Aldean’s set at a Las Vegas music festival, Sam Smith was the night’s official musical guest.
Smith, who recently opened up to Billboard about everything from his relationship status to his penchant for sad songs, took the SNL stage and played two songs from his sophomore effort, The Thrill of It All (due out Nov. 3).
Introduced by host Gal Gadot, the British soul singer delivered the album’s lead single “Too Good at Goodbyes,” a secular gospel pop lament, backed by a coterie of singers, as well as “Pray.” In the current issue of Billboard, Smith explained that “Pray” was inspired by time he spent in Iraq with the charity War Child.
“I spent five days in Mosul and came back embarrassed that I had known so little about the world and other people’s lives,” Smith said. “I went back to that great Nina Simone quote, that it is important to speak about the times you live in. I hadn’t done that; I’d just written a bunch of songs about love. So I wanted to write about how I’m now starting to open my eyes, at 25, to what is going on in the rest of the world, and that it’s not always pretty.”
Watch the two performances below.
This story first appeared on Billboard.com.
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