The Sunday Magazine: Jimmy Fallon and The Roots with Classroom Instruments


Getting a different perspective on something you think you know well, something you think you know really well, is invaluable. Over the last three years there has been a recurring bit on American late night television which has taken the biggest pop hits, right at the point they have become intolerable, and given them a fresh new makeover.

In June of 2012 you could not escape hearing Carly Rae Jepsen’s hit song “Call Me Maybe”. Besides being on every device which played music there were multiple sports teams publishing YouTube videos lip synching to it. Just at the point I was ready to call “No mas!” I was tuning into Late Night with Jimmy Fallon. He introduced us to the “music room” backstage and inside was Jimmy Fallon, Carly Rae Jepsen and The Roots. For the next 3 minutes and thirty seconds they did a version of “Call Me Maybe” using classroom instruments. Instruments we played while in primary school like recorders, triangles, kazoos, ukulele, toy xylophone, and melodica provided the music for Ms. Jepsen to sing what I think is the definitive final version of the song. How do I know that? You hardly saw another amateur lip synching video show up after this was seen.

Happily this wasn’t just a one-time event. Robin Thicke did “Blurred Lines” and the classroom instruments made it way less provocative. Meghan Trainor did “All About That Bass”. The Muppets joined in on the “Sesame Street Theme”.

The pinnacle moment was when Idina Menzel did “Let It Go”. Just as with “Call Me Maybe” “Let It Go” had reached critical mass and the gang in the “music room” turned it on its head.

Despite what is undeniably a simple concept this could not be accomplished without the incredibly talented musicians who make up The Roots. They have been Mr. Fallon’s house band from the beginning. If there is anything that makes these videos and versions so enjoyable it is the palpable sense of fun radiating off of everyone on screen. Watching these guys play these instruments with these huge smiles shows how much fun music can be. I’ve also heard it said that great singers can sing the phone book and be compelling. I am pretty sure I could challenge The Roots to make music with sticks and stones and they would create a joyful sound.

The current state of late night television in America is as good as it gets and if you need a reason to stay up late Jimmy Fallon and The Roots provide one of the happiest reasons to lose some sleep.

Mark Behnke