Jimmy Fallon has officially become the sixth host of NBC’s The Tonight Show, leaving the reins of his precious Late Night to SNL buddy Seth Meyers. It’ll be a tough act to follow, as Fallon has had an unparalleled effect on the music world during his time at 12:35 AM. For starters, he hired The Roots as his house band. And no disrespect to Paul Shaffer, but that’s pretty darn cool.
In addition to playful renditions of popular songs using children’s instruments or promoting Fallon and Justin Timberlake’s love of old school rap, the show had a knack for giving time to emerging acts, many of whom were making their television debut at 30 Rock. As we usher in a new era of the Late Night brand, here’s a look at five artists who got a big break from Fallon’s show.
Liv Warfield, January 28, 2014
The VH1 Soul You Oughta Know artist made her television debut just a few weeks ago, performing “Why Do You Lie” on one of Fallon’s final episodes. With an eye-popping black-and-gold wardrobe and sassy stage presence, Warfield revealed just what she’s learned from mentor Prince while bulldozing through her vocals in the middle of a 16-piece band.
Frank Ocean, July 9, 2012
Popular mixtape nostalgia, ULTRA and high-profile songwriting gigs for the likes of Beyoncé helped make Frank Ocean’s debut album more than highly anticipated in the summer of 2012. Add a major New York Times profile and revealing blog post about his sexuality, and his Late Night performance–on the night of his digital album release–was must-see TV.
Ed Sheeran, April 2, 2012
Traveling overseas around the time of One Direction and the Wanted, the YOK alum used his early Fallon spot to make it clear he wasn’t simply another cute guy with a British accent. The singer-songwriter performed breakout single “The A Team,” months before debut album + would see a U.S. release. It’s hard to ignore a talented ginger, and Sheeran’s television debut helped ingrain his personal brand of meaningful guitar into the brains of American audiences.
Odd Future, February 16, 2011
The young Los Angeles hip-hop collective performed “Sandwitches” in early 2011, infusing Fallon’s easygoing jamboree with some necessary edge just as they were all any self-perceived cool internet entity could talk about. With the help of The Roots, Tyler, the Creator and Hodgy Beats turned the NBC set into their personal playground moving far beyond the designated performance area. Clad in ski masks, their unpredictable antics and refreshingly aggressive take on music even inspired Mos Def to come out in support, getting all up in the camera for repeated declarations of “swag.” The group’s first television performance came without much mainstream media attention and with a lot of good faith on the part of show producers, and the boys did not disappoint.
Passion Pit, July 30, 2009
Less than 18 months before their Late Night debut, Passion Pit were just four guys who split their time between Boston and New York. After the release of Manners in May 2009, the group performed “The Reeling,” reigniting a series of high-profile gigs in support of the acclaimed album. It was a win-win for Fallon as well. Welcoming the band onto his show early in his tenure as Late Night host helped to establish the show’s musical direction and separate it from big brother The Tonight Show–just in case anyone had the potential to confuse the two.