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Musician Cameos In Popular TV Shows That Caught Us Totally Off Guard

For many network and cable TV shows, celebrity cameos can be quite frequent. Oftentimes, high-profile fans of certain programs will make personal requests to be on it in order to be a part of a world they've come to love just like any other audience member. Other times, TV shows will reach out to celebrities to make guest appearances on their program in order to boost ratings, and attention, or even on the rare occasion to service a storyline that somehow involves them. 

The appreciation of these cameos is, for better or worse, a divisive topic in the entertainment industry. For many casual viewers, the brief or extended appearance of a celebrity either as themselves or another character in the show can be distracting from the overall plot. However, many are able to see these celebrity cameos for what they are: a fun addition to the show's universe that is meant to entertain its unsuspecting audience.

What's rarer than any average celebrity cameo, however, is the musician cameo. While some have extended backgrounds in acting on-screen or on-stage, others are quite out of their element in certain TV shows, but that doesn't make them any less entertaining to watch and interact with our favorite characters. Nevertheless, these 15 musical artists who cameoed on popular TV shows completely stole the scenes they were in, and have remained, for some shows, the most memorable parts. 

David Bowie serenades Ricky Gervais in Extras

Ricky Gervais' sitcom "Extras," which aired between 2005 and 2007, is notable for its frequent celebrity cameos. In the show, Gervais plays Andy Millman, a background actor desperate to succeed in the entertainment industry. Across the show's two seasons, Andy crosses paths with many celebrities playing themselves, from Patrick Stewart to Kate Winslet. However, its biggest celebrity cameo also happens to be one of the show's most iconic and hilarious moments.

Finding himself in the VIP section of a bar, Andy ends up in a corner talking to none other than David Bowie. The seemingly compassionate music superstar lends his ear to Andy's struggles with being on a low-brow sitcom. Then, out of nowhere, Bowie is struck with an inspiration for a song, turning to a nearby piano and singing, "Little fat man who sold his soul." Soon enough, Bowie is leading the entire party in a gang vocal humiliating Gervais' appearance ("See his pug-nosed face!"), as Andy watches in horrified shock. 

Despite the fictionalized moment, Ricky Gervais had nothing but love for Bowie, his hero, because of the moment. After Bowie's unfortunate passing in 2016, Gervais recalled when he was invited by Bowie to play a benefit in 2007, who introduced the comedian by crooning "Chubby little loser..." in reference to their moment from "Extras" (via The Hollywood Reporter).

Britney Spears crushes on Ted in How I Met Your Mother

"How I Met Your Mother" was one of the longest-running sitcoms on television, premiering in 2005 and finally wrapping up in 2014. The show follows the lives of five friends living in New York City, particularly from the point-of-view of Josh Radnor's Ted Mosby as he searches for the woman who becomes the mother of his kids. However, early in its run, the show attracted the attention of one pop music megastar.

During the show's third season, Britney Spears makes a multi-episode guest appearance as Abby, the receptionist at Ted's dermatologist who quickly develops a crush on him. She quickly abandons her dorky outfit for a more attractive one in order to gain Ted's attention. However, in typical "How I Met Your Mother" fashion, Abby ends up sleeping with Barney Stinson, the womanizer friend of Ted's, played by Neil Patrick Harris. Nevertheless, Barney ends up biting off more than he can chew by getting too involved with the obsessive and naive girl. 

Thankfully, Spears was a delight to work with for the show's creators, who told E! in 2014 that they were worried that the singer would be interested in playing the more important role of Stella, the dermatologist Ted is infatuated with. However, her eagerness to play Abby ended up working out perfectly for everybody. It especially helped get lots of new eyes on "How I Met Your Mother."

Jon Bon Jovi is NBC's Artist in Residence in 30 Rock

Like "Extras," "30 Rock" has many celebrity guests throughout its run. The show centers on Tina Fey's Liz Lemon, the overworked head writer of the fictional NBC sketch show, "TGS," who is often at odds with her boss, Jack Donaghy (Alec Baldwin), as well as other actors and co-workers. Due to its spoofing of actual NBC and TV network business practices, many stars pass through the halls of the titular New York City office space, including Jerry Seinfeld and even Vice President Al Gore. 

One high-profile cameo, however, had an interesting path to becoming a "30 Rock" guest star. In 2009, rock star Jon Bon Jovi was named NBC's Artist in Residence during the promotional cycle for his album, "The Circle" (via The New York Times). As a result, Bon Jovi appeared on several NBC programs, from "Saturday Night Live" to "Inside the Actors Studio." One of these appearances included a cameo in "30 Rock," where he's recruited by Jack to help impress a woman by blowing off a conversation with the singer.

While the moment called to mind a story comedian Don Rickles once told about Frank Sinatra, it's quite a typical "30 Rock" moment for the suave womanizer. It also gives the show an opportunity for a recurring joke where Liz mistakes several potted plants for the "Livin' On A Prayer" singer. 

One Direction perform their biggest hit in iCarly

"iCarly" was a long-running teen sitcom on Nickelodeon starring Miranda Cosgrove and Jennette McCurdy as two high schoolers who host an Internet show that launches them to celebrity status. As expected, this leads the two to cross paths with many celebrities, including artists like the Plain White T's, and public figures like Michelle Obama (via Insider). The show even saw cameos by future film and TV stars like Austin Butler and Emily Ratajkowski. 

One musical act that appears in "iCarly" very early in their careers is the U.K. boy band One Direction. The group, who formed on the competition show, "The X-Factor," came out swinging in the music industry with their 2011 hit, "What Makes You Beautiful." The following year, all five members of One Direction appeared in "iCarly," as the band was booked to perform on the in-universe Internet show, although their plans are halted when singer Harry Styles gets sick, forcing comedic relief character Gibby to fill in for him while performing "What Makes You Beautiful."

What's significant about One Direction's appearance on "iCarly" back in 2012 is that it was the first on-screen acting gig for Styles, who after the band's breakup launched a Grammy-winning solo career, and has recently made the transition to starring in movies like "Dunkirk" and "Don't Worry Darling." It seems as if the pop music heartthrob has a lot to owe the Nickelodeon sitcom, perhaps someday making an appearance on the McCurdy-less Paramount+ reboot. 

Taylor Swift crashes a wedding in New Girl

The 2011 Fox sitcom, "New Girl," is notable for its absurd, surreal moments. That certainly applies to the show's second season finale, which features a cameo from Grammy-winning singer-songwriter, Taylor Swift. What's strangest about Swift's brief cameo is that she very much existed in the language of "New Girl" from the start; the show's protagonist Jess, played by Zooey Deschanel, frequently listens to the artist's music, while other pop culture references to the country-pop sensation are aplenty.

It comes as quite a shock when Swift finally shows her face in "New Girl," but not as herself. In the Season 2 finale, the show's roommates gather for the arranged wedding of Cece, Jess's best friend, and Schmidt's love interest. However, in a shocking twist, Cece's own betrothed ends up cutting the ceremony short to profess his love for his childhood best friend, Elaine, played by Swift. The two run and elope together in a moment that would feel quite fitting on Swift's 2010 album, "Speak Now." 

Swift's appearance wasn't just a surprise for fans, either. She even impressed her fellow cast members, such as Jake Johnson, who told Entertainment Weekly that, despite her time on set being brief, she was "very good." Showrunner Liz Meriweather also gushed about working with Swift, who was apparently a massive fan of the series. For a cameo as rare as this, it's good that the "New Girl" crew didn't waste the opportunity. 

Prince also makes a surprise appearance in New Girl

It says a lot about your sitcom when you have someone like Taylor Swift cameo on your program, and that's not even the most high-profile guest star in the show's entire run. Famously, in the show's third season, Jess and Cece are invited to a party at the home of none other than Prince, who appears in the episode in the flesh. However, the episode wouldn't have happened if the iconic guitarist and singer wasn't a massive fan of "New Girl" in the first place. 

According to Jake Johnson, Prince's condition to appear on the show, in true fanboy fashion, was based on him being able to help Jess and Nick get together (via Billboard). The cameo wasn't a guarantee, however, as Prince also almost pulled out at the last minute after learning that some of the Kardashians were scheduled to appear in the episode (via Vanity Fair). Thankfully, the "New Girl" creators cut the Kardashians out in order to keep their guest appearance from one of the greatest musicians who ever lived. 

In the episode, Jess and Nick encounter Prince during a relationship crisis when Nick spontaneously tells Jess he loves her and she has an awkward reaction. However, Prince encourages Jess to act on her feelings for Nick, which she does as Prince performs "Fallinlove2nite" to the partygoers. In a show full of ridiculous moments between characters, partying at Prince's mansion probably takes the cake.  

St. Vincent gets serious about taxes in Portlandia

Prior to Fred Armisen's departure from "Saturday Night Live" in 2013, the comedian pursued a different kind of sketch show on IFC. Teaming up with comedian and musician Carrie Brownstein, "Portlandia" premiered on IFC in 2011, featuring vignettes that take place in the titular Oregon city and featuring many absurd hipster characters. As one would expect from a sketch series, it features many iconic guest stars, particularly from the music world due to Armisen and Brownstein's connections, including Joanna Newsom, Paul Simon, and Jack White.

One significant musical cameo that appears multiple times in "Portlandia" is Annie Clark, who performs under the alternative act, St. Vincent. One sketch finds Clark joining Armisen and Brownstein in giving an intervention to Brownstein's tax lawyer boyfriend, played by Mark Proksch, advising him to avoid going to jail for tax evasion like the musician Lauryn Hill. Another sketch pairs Annie up with Armisen as a pretentious studio guy who mansplains music gear to her after a concert, to her chagrin. 

Annie's frequent appearances in the sketch show ended up fruitful for both her and Brownstein, as the two later starred together in the 2021 mockumentary film, "The Nowhere Inn," which follows Brownstein as she is hired to document a St. Vincent tour that devolves into an extremely surreal existential crisis for Brownstein. Meanwhile, Armisen would also flex his mockumentary-making skills for IFC much earlier than that. 

Daryl Hall, Kenny Loggins, and HAIM chronicle a non-existent band in Documentary Now!

Bill Hader and Fred Armisen departed from "Saturday Night Live" in 2013 but quickly reunited in order to pursue an idea for a show that originated during their time in the halls of 30 Rock. The show, "Documentary Now!," premiered on IFC in 2015, featuring Hader and Armisen parodying several famous documentaries alongside guest stars like Jack Black, Paula Pell, and Maya Rudolph. "Documentary Now!" received loads of acclaim early on for its pinpoint accuracy in recreating iconic documentaries like "Grey Gardens" and "The Thin Blue Line." 

Their two-part first season finale, however, is one of their most ambitious recreations. In a spoof of "History of the Eagles," Armisen and Hader star as two Chicagoans who form a California band known as the Blue Jean Committee, whose rise and fall changed the scope of '70s soft-rock. To give themselves credibility, the show's creators employed some high-profile talent to recount their personal (albeit fictional) love for the band. 

Among the interviewed musicians who gush about the Blue Jean Committee include Daryl Hall, Kenny Loggins, Este, Danielle, and Alana Haim of the sister act HAIM. The latter three in particular represent the more modern generation of musical artists faux-influenced by the Blue Jean Committee, while Loggins and Hall bring a more veteran approach to having known the bandmates. Michael McDonald also cameos during a sequence set at the Rock n' Roll Hall of Fame ceremony celebrating the group.

Selena Gomez leads a house band in Inside Amy Schumer

"Inside Amy Schumer" was the breakout project of the titular comedian, a sketch comedy series that aired on Comedy Central from 2013 to 2016, and was rebooted on Paramount+ in 2022. Like any sketch show, "Inside Amy Schumer" features many high-profile guest stars who interact with Schumer's character in sketches, including Julia Louis-Dreyfus, Bill Nye, and Julianne Moore. However, one particular musical guest star was no stranger to comedy TV.

That guest star was Selena Gomez, who got her start on the Disney Channel series, "Wizards of Waverly Place," as a teenager before transitioning into a successful career as a pop superstar with hits like "Hands to Myself" and "Lose You to Love Me." Despite her success in the music industry, Gomez hasn't lost touch with her TV origins, producing shows like "13 Reasons Why," and starring in Hulu's "Only Murders in the Building." While her appearance in "Inside Amy Schumer" is no new territory for Gomez, it more prominently flexes her musical skills than her other TV efforts. 

In the sketch, Schumer plays the egotistical host of "Down to Earth," a talk show filmed on a giant blimp floating in the sky (via MTV). Gomez is her A-list house band leader, who deals with rude and racist remarks from the show's cheerful host. It's a solid sketch comedy appearance from Gomez, who would later exercise those same skills while hosting "Saturday Night Live" in 2022. 

The darker side of Migos appear in Atlanta

It's safe to say there's a lot about Donald Glover's FX series, "Atlanta," that is unexpected. The show often delves into the surreal and horrifying aspects of being a black man or woman in America, often from the lens of the series' quiet and observant central cast. Nevertheless, "Atlanta" is not immune to including celebrity cameos, albeit their picks are often stranger than most other shows. From Michael Vick competing in foot races outside of a bar to Liam Neeson secluding in a club for canceled individuals, "Atlanta" uses its celebrity cameos well.

That certainly applies to the hip-hop group Migos, consisting of rappers Quavo, Offset, and the late Takeoff. In 2016, they appeared in the third episode of Season 1, when Alfred and Darius take a trip to the middle of the woods to covertly meet with the trio for a drug deal. However, things take a turn for the worse when Alfred and Darius realize that Migos have a man kidnapped, who they proceed to kill in front of a horrified Alfred and Darius.

The cameo from Migos was certainly beloved by fans of the series. In an interview with Complex, Quavo gushed about working with Glover and expressed an interest in coming back for later seasons, despite the fact that his appearance on the show was his acting debut. Although "Atlanta" ended with its fourth season, it would've been nice to see the Migos return. 

Ed Sheeran sings a campfire song in Game of Thrones

Few celebrity cameos on TV have caused quite a star as Ed Sheeran's brief appearance in HBO's "Game of Thrones." Throughout the 2010s, "Game of Thrones" was one of the most culturally dominant programs on TV, which as expected drew a lot of desire from other celebrities and musicians to briefly pop into the world of Westeros. Several musical artists made significant appearances in the show, such as Coldplay drummer Will Champion's appearance during the Red Wedding, or Sigur Ros performing at King Joffrey's wedding in Season 4. 

The English singer-songwriter appears in the show's seventh season as one of many Lannister soldiers camping out in the woods discovered by Maisie Williams' Arya. He sings a campfire song, "Hands of Gold," as Arya's supposed enemies unexpectedly invite her to sit and eat. It's a charming scene, particularly for a character like Arya whose entire motivation is revenge against the people who killed her family. However, many "Game of Thrones" fans felt that the appearance of an A-lister like Sheeran was distracting. 

However, the cameo served a bigger purpose. According to an interview with Complex, Season 7 was initially meant to be Maisie Williams' last season, so the showrunners got Sheeran to cameo because the actress is a massive fan of his music. Though Arya made it to Season 8, it remained a nice gesture from the showrunners to surprise Williams, even after Sophie Turner spoiled it for her. 

Lin-Manuel Miranda brings his Broadway chops to Curb Your Enthusiasm

Like many of the other shows on this list, "Curb Your Enthusiasm" is rife with celebrity cameos. The series follows Larry David, co-creator of "Seinfeld," as he navigates day-to-day interactions with friends and celebrities around Los Angeles. Some of his most notable famous adversaries have included Michael J. Fox, Ted Danson, and Rosie O'Donnell. However, one of the show's most memorable celebrity cameos is actor and songwriter Lin-Manuel Miranda, who appears in Season 9. 

Throughout the ninth season, Larry is trying to get a musical about Salman Rushdie called "Fatwa!" produced while avoiding ire from the Ayatollah himself. He eventually gets the green light to produce it, but only with the involvement of the "Hamilton" creator. Miranda is enthusiastic to join the production, though Larry becomes frustrated with his creative demands and changes. The opening scene of the Season 9 finale features an extensive musical number with Miranda and F. Murray Abraham performing a "Hamilton"-esque song for Larry's musical.

Even for the man who rose to international fame with "Hamilton," getting to flex his Broadway muscles on "Curb Your Enthusiasm" was a dream come true for Miranda, who spoke about his love for the show in a behind-the-scenes clip (via YouTube). 

Jack Antonoff rants about falafel to Zoë Kravitz in High Fidelity

In 2020, Zoë Kravitz starred in a Hulu series reboot of the 2000 film, "High Fidelity," which starred John Cusack as a record store worker recounting his five biggest breakups. The series follows a similar premise, albeit with a more modern take on dating troubles and replacing Cusack's Rob with Kravitz's Robyn (also nicknamed Rob). The 2000 film featured several celebrity cameos, including Bruce Springsteen, but the 2020 reboot features a celebrity cameo that almost serves as a callback.

In the sixth episode of "High Fidelity," which was canceled after one season, Rob visits a boyfriend of hers who is recording music at Electric Lady Studios in New York City. There, she runs into his producer, Jack Antonoff, who is notable for his work with artists like Taylor Swift and St. Vincent and is also the frontman of the alternative band, Bleachers. Antonoff's music, often '80s-tinged, has drawn many comparisons to Springsteen's work, making his appearance in the series somewhat of a callback to Springsteen's in the 2000 film. 

Antonoff's brief interaction with Rob in the episode also indicates a much larger reference. Though they spend their time in "High Fidelity" chatting about local falafel places, Antonoff and Kravitz have collaborated on music in real-life. Aside from an impending solo album from Kravitz produced by Antonoff, the two are also credited as co-writers on the single, "Lavender Haze," from Taylor Swift's 2022 album, "Midnights." 

Sting becomes a suspect in Only Murders in the Building

"Only Murders in the Building" is one of Hulu's biggest hits. The murder mystery shows stars Steve Martin, Martin Short, and Selena Gomez as a trio of true crime fans living in the same New York apartment complex. When a fellow neighbor is murdered, they decide to start a true crime podcast while investigating it together, leading them down many different paths and leads throughout the course of the first season.

One major moment in the fourth episode of the first season comes when all signs point to their culprit being one celebrity resident: Sting, the lead singer of The Police. Sting expresses his distaste for the pet dog belonging to Oliver Putnam, the former theater director played by Short. Later on, Oliver finds his dog poisoned, suspecting Sting to be threatening him in order to cover up for his murder. Their plan to reveal Sting's guilt involves Martin's Charles-Haden Savage wearing a wire, but Sting ends up proving innocent. 

Sting's involvement in the show ended up being quite a surprise to the show's creators. Although the role was meant for any A-list star, the former The Police singer was eager to join the show (via E! Online). The cast and crew also appreciated getting Sting to sing for them in-between takes. Though Sting isn't as nefarious in the show as he initially appeared, he's quite a memorable part of its thrilling first season. 

Megan Thee Stallion makes her MCU debut in She-Hulk: Attorney-at-Law

Although celebrity cameos, and particularly musical celebrities, are quite common on TV, it's possible that nobody expected this face to show up in a Disney+ series set in the Marvel Cinematic Universe. Nevertheless, "She-Hulk: Attorney at Law" was much different from any other MCU project, which came as a breath of fresh air for some, while others felt disappointed. The show centers on Tatiana Maslany as Jennifer Walters, a thriving lawyer whose life is turned upside down when she becomes able to transform into a massive hulking superhero just like her cousin, Bruce Banner. 

The third episode of "She-Hulk," "The People v. Emil Blonsky," finds Jen forced to represent Bruce's former enemy, Emil Blonsky aka the Abomination, in his parole hearing. While Jennifer deals with this conflict, a B-plot centers on her co-workers, Nikki and Pug, helping out fellow attorney Dennis Bukowski, who has been defrauded by his girlfriend, a shape-shifter who convinced him she was Megan Thee Stallion. 

The punchline comes at the end of the chaotic court case that ensues when the actual rapper ends up attending, giving Dennis the thought that maybe he can actually get with her, to which Jen and Nikki roll their eyes. The real shining moment for Megan comes in the post-credits scene, where she hires Jennifer Walters as her lawyer, and the two proceed to dance together in celebration, which was a favored moment by the show's creators