On Monday, Nov. 13, Jimmy Fallon made his emotional return to The Tonight Show following the sudden death of his mother, Gloria Fallon.
To commemorate the late night host’s return after a weeklong absence, Taylor Swift kicked off the show with a performance of her song “New Year’s Day” off of her new studio album, reputation. The piano-led performance was an emotional one, considering Fallon’s touching tribute to his mother at the top of the hour.
Following Fallon’s opening monologue, the ten-time Grammy Award winner, seated behind a piano, began her performance with a string of background vocalists accompanying her. The new song’s lyrics proved to be appropriate for the occasion as one of the lyrics coincidentally correlated to Fallon’s heart-wrenching tribute to his mother.
In “New Year’s Day,” Swift sings, “You squeeze my hand three times in the back of the taxi.” Oddly enough, only a few minutes prior to the emotional performance, Fallon payed tribute to his late mother by sharing a story with the audience about how his mother used to squeeze his hand three times to represent “I love you.”
Mike DiCenzo, a producer at The Tonight Show, addressed Swift’s performance in a series of tweets, claiming the staff was surprised by the lyrical coincidence. “No one had heard it. I nearly gasped. Tears. I think everyone in the audience started sobbing. I could see Jimmy silhouetted at his desk dabbing his eyes with a tissue. We all lost it. It was a beautiful coincidence in a beautiful performance,” he stated in respects to the poignant moment.
QuestLove, a drummer for the show’s in-house band, The Roots, also commented on the lyrics, tweeting, “I’m just realizing Taylor didn’t readjust the song’s lyrics for tonight’s performance. But the narrative literally applies to the words Jimmy spoke of his mother. Wow. You can’t plan these things.”
At the end of the “New Year’s Day” performance, Swift rose from her bench and entered in a prolonged hug with Fallon, which many fans noted was an authentic embrace between two friends following the host’s mother’s death. Though it is commonplace for a performer to engage with a show’s host, DiCenzo assured fans that the embrace between the two stars was a genuinely special moment, tweeting, “That hug between Jimmy and Taylor after the song was 100% real emotion. Whatever you think of Taylor, she did something beautiful for Jimmy and our show today, and we're forever grateful.”
In regards to Swift’s appearance, DiCenzo also claimed that she generously accepted a last-minute offer to appear on the show. DiCenzo explained, saying, “She was not scheduled to do our show today. But we wanted something special for this first show back, so we asked her on a complete whim, since she had been in town doing SNL. She said yes with zero hesitation.”
This is Swift’s second performance of “New Year’s Day.” On Nov. 9, the night before the singer/songwriter’s album release, Swift debuted the song in a pre-recorded performance that aired during the TGIT programming block on ABC. Two days later, she performed new songs off of reputation for the first time ever in her highly-anticipated Saturday Night Live performance, with comedian Tiffany Haddish as host.
To watch Taylor Swift’s touching performance of “New Year’s Day” on The Tonight Show with Jimmy Fallon, click the link below!