The 2008 announcement that Jimmy Fallon would be taking over Late Night from Conan O’Brien was met with a chorus of “boo!”s and “what?”s. While he proved successful on Saturday Night Live’s “Weekend Update” segment, he often botched sketches by laughing either at co-stars or, even worse, himself. Late Night with Jimmy Fallon started with hiccups of its own, but eventually the new host stepped out of O’Brien’s shadow. His new release, Blow Your Pants Off, compiles several of the show’s comedic musical performances, and does a good job of documenting how Fallon has matured as a performer, going from impersonating to seemingly disappearing into whomever he wishes.
Fallon’s 70s-era Neil Young performances have to be heard to be believed. Fallon’s look is worth some chuckles, but it’s the identical tenor that really wins. The Fresh Prince of Bel-Air theme song and “Whip My Hair” (with Bruce Springsteen joining in on the latter) are treated seriously by Fallon, elevating the joke from funny to downright classic. His Bob Dylan (Charles in Charge) and Jim Morrison (Reading Rainbow) show a dedication not seen in his time on SNL.
A couple of bits on the disc don’t work quite as well, because they come from performances that relied on their visual level. The cover of Rebecca Black’s “Friday” was choreographed so well on the show that it overshadows the fact that it’s just Fallon, Stephen Colbert, and Soul Patrol legend Taylor Hicks singing the abysmal song. “Let Us Play With Your Look”, with Fallon repeating the title as his vocals rise, does not work on record at all.
These missteps are blown away by an “early” version of “Yesterday”, featuring Sir Paul McCartney himself on “Scrambled Eggs”, with heartfelt shout-outs to waffle fries and tofu wings. The fact that legendary performers such as McCartney and the Boss are willing to drop any pretension for a laugh only makes you respect ringleader Fallon all the more. If he isn’t already, Fallon seems destined to become the King of Late Night.
And that is how you slow jam reviews.
Essential Tracks: “The Fresh Prince of Bel-Air”, “Charles in Charge”, and “Scrambled Eggs”