NBC's New Year's Eve special delivered an eclectic selection of guests to ring in 2023, including iconic singer-songwriter David Byrne. Byrne took the stage late in the night to join co-host Miley Cyrus for a two-song duet, and social media was perplexed. The commentary got very heated very fast.
This was the second year of Miley's New Year's Even Party on NBC, this time co-hosted by Dolly Parton. If those two names weren't enough to draw you in, the show also included performances by Sia, Rae Sremmurd, FLETCHER, Liily and Latto, among others. All of them sparked conversations on social media, but Byrne's appearance in particular caused a clash of the generations that set the timeline ablaze. It may also be worth noting that his performance came late in the night when many commenters may have had a few drinks to celebrate the occasion.
Byrne, 70, is best known as the frontman of the band Talking Heads. He has also worked extensively as a solo artist, a writer, a filmmaker and an artist in all kinds of disciplines. His fans were quick to list his accomplishments on Sunday night – especially when they saw "slander" from those less familiar with him.
On the other hand, many viewers found Byrne's performance confusing and incongruous at first, and they weren't shy about saying so. Byrne took the stage by singing a David Bowie song with Cyrus, leading some to question whether there had been some kind of mix-up behind the scenes. Additionally, Byrne's distinctive voice was off-putting to some unfamiliar viewers, but they could not have predicted how they would be punished for criticizing him.
Byrne's New Year's Eve performances are available to watch in clips on social media or on NBC's streaming service Peacock. Here's a look at how viewers reacted to his unexpected guest performances.
First entertainment of the new year: Watching the "who's that guy with Miley?" people and the "who's singing with David Byrne?" people rumble.— lindastern (@lindastern) January 1, 2023
All the youngins on these here interwebs not understanding that David Byrne is so fucking legendary that his voice isn't required to conform to musical norms – that's his superpower. (also, high praise for Miley catching on so fast and changing key to match him.)— peppersagooddog (@peppersagooddog) January 1, 2023
First, commenters quickly drew lines between generations in discussing Byrne. They felt that younger viewers simply weren't aware of his reputation, or the fact that his unique voice was celebrated by his fans for decades.prevnext
has twitter considered david byrne has earned the right to do whatever he wants onstage— ringo (@isolarbowie) January 1, 2023
I would like for David Byrne to randomly wander into every New Year’s musical performance from here on out— ICQ “uh oh” noise (@lomavistaplace) January 1, 2023
Die-hard fans felt that Byrne had earned the right to perform any songs at any venue he wanted, and should not be considered out of place.prevnext
The fact that David Byrne was added to this show just two days ago makes me hope that he ran into Dolly at the grocery store or something and she was like "you should come sing some songs!"— The Triumvirdemic Cometh (@a_circling_sol) January 1, 2023
Sia just rolling with it cuz who cares— no, other Tom (@tomgam) January 1, 2023
Given Byrne's quirky reputation and the utter surprise of this appearance, many fans theorized that he was a last-minute addition to the lineup. Perhaps, they speculated, he had even asked for the honor himself.prevnext
Does Miley Cyrus think David Byrne is David Bowie, or that “Let’s Dance” was originally performed by David Byrne? Because good god is this awkward.— Theo Molloy (@temolloy) January 1, 2023
Along the same lines, fans theorized about how Byrne wound up singing a David Bowie song when he first took the stage, thinking that the similarity in names might not be a coincidence.prevnext
Ya know what? Miley was born too late. She should've been a 70s icon.
Also, David Byrne singing Bowie? Yes, please. https://t.co/ioVUl6nCEq— Lisa Rowe (@txvoodoo) January 1, 2023
Seeing Cyrus perform alongside Byrne, many fans felt like this was a great match and wondered why it had never been done before. Some even joked that Cyrus might have been more at home as a celebrity in the 1970s rather than the last two decades.prevnext
They brought David Byrne out to sing a cover? Why don’t you let him sing his own songs…and give the rest of Miley’s cut to the rest of Talking Heads to come perform too. That would be a happy New Year to us Gen Xers. https://t.co/TAknntchJD— Darren (@NewsDarren) January 1, 2023
While Byrne's fans defended him from criticism, they had complaints of their own. Many wondered why he was singing covers, with just one of his own original songs. They also wished that his band, Talking Heads had been able to join him.prevnext
Finally, fans joked that Byrne seemed as confused as anyone by his own appearance on this show. They quoted his own song to reference the awkward moments.prev