In our Albums That Defined 2014 year-end feature, we highlighted a recent trend: the second (or third or 10th) golden age of late night television musical performances. You might predict that the internet would make those old-fashioned talent showcases a relic of relevance, but those performances (and their next day blog posts) made stars of folks like Future Islands and Sam Smith.
Though he's nowhere near a household name, there's been one man who's loomed large over the new age of TV music: Jonathan Cohen. The music booker for Jimmy Fallon since 2009 (first for Late Night and then for The Tonight Show), Cohen was responsible for breakout water cooler performances like Odd Future and later The Replacements (their first since being banned from NBC studios after a hilariously shambolic SNL performance in 1986), and a whole lot of interesting artists pairing with The Roots. He told Wired in 2014, despite the move to the bigger stage, he still took pride in breaking new artists. Now, he's moving on.
With Cohen departing from The Tonight Show and David Letterman retiring from The Late Show (seeing Letterman react to bands like Future Islands and St. Vincent were often the best part of the performances), it'll be interesting to see if the recent spate of great TV music survives the Late Night shake-up or if it fizzles back to MOR safeness. The fact that the former booker from the Leno years is taking over in the interim isn't encouraging. Jay Leno doesn't exactly scream "cutting edge."