On a preview episode of That’s My Jam that aired in November, The Voice coaches Ariana Grande and Kelly Clarkson competed in the ultimate pop diva showdown, trading impossibly challenging vocal runs from the likes of Celine Dion and Whitney Houston. Now, ahead of the show’s official premiere Monday night (Jan. 3), host Jimmy Fallon is wondering: How do we top that?
“People were weeping in the audience,” Fallon tells Billboard‘s Pop Shop Podcast (listen to the full episode below). “The microphone was melting. I’m thinking, ‘Oh this is cool, man. This is unbelievable. This is great TV.'”
Audiences definitely tuned in for the moment, with that sneak episode marking the season’s most-watched unscripted debut, with 6.4 million viewers. It remains to be seen if the crowd will be moved to tears again, but Fallon assures that there is a lot more star power and more surprises on the horizon.
“You’d be shocked to see who comes in and scores,” Fallon says of some of the show’s non-musician celebrity contestants. “Everyone we had on has a secret thing. They can all sing. Kate Hudson is amazing, by the way. I always knew she was musical, but I didn’t know if she could really sing – she could really sing.”
The show includes some of the musical games you know and love from The Tonight Show “but given a prime-time budget,” Fallon says. And all the games are backed by a live band. “We have a great band that aren’t The Roots – The Roots are the greatest, but these are the baby Roots,” Fallon laughs. “They’re so talented.”
Monday night’s premiere features Alessia Cara & Josh Groban facing off against Chance the Rapper & Joseph Gordon-Levitt. In a preview clip, we see Chance turn Nelly’s 2002 Billboard Hot 100 No. 1 smash “Hot in Herre” into a country-rock boot-stomper. “Never in my life did I think that was going to work, but it did!” Fallon marvels in the clip.
In addition to the lineup already onboard for this season, does Fallon have any dream guests in mind? He mentioned recent Tonight Show guests (and New Year’s Eve co-hosts) Miley Cyrus and Pete Davidson, and, of course, he has an old pal in mind. “Timberlake — obviously the call’s out to him,” Fallon says, adding: “Whoever has any remote dream of maybe singing something … just come on and play with us. We don’t take it too seriously.”
Mostly, Fallon just wants to add more lighthearted entertainment to the world with the new show, which airs Monday nights at 9 p.m. ET on NBC.
“The world is so heavy right now,” he says. “Give me a fun option and I’ll take it. We’re working hard to be funny and fun and entertain you, and if you want that option, take it. … I think it’s something everyone can watch and laugh at together.”