Jimmy Fallon Helps Foreigner Remain Juke Box Heroes

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On Feb. 12 at 5:15 p.m. PT/8:15 p.m. ET, Yahoo Live will live stream Foreigner's concert from the NYCB Theatre in Westbury, NY. Tune in HERE to watch!

Twelve years after the departure of original Foreigner singer Lou Gramm, the band remains in the public eye, thanks in part to rock radio, television advertisements. and movie soundtracks. But Jimmy Fallon deserves a bit of credit as well. In February, he dramatically lip-synched Foreigner's "Juke Box Hero" in an on-air contest with Paul Rudd. A clip of the battle has garnered more 21 million views on YouTube.

Foreigner may be down to just one original member, guitarist Mick Jones, but the rock icons are still drawing huge crowds in concert— largely because of their catalog, which includes classics "Juke Box Hero," "Waiting," "Hot-Blooded," and "I Want to Know What Love Is." Says lead vocalist Kelly Hansen, who joined the band in 2005: "There are 16 top 30 songs in this band, and they've lasted the test of time because they're all great. It's hard to pick my favorite. The songs are kind of like apples and oranges to me, but I like to say that I get the chance every night to have a selection of delicious perfectly ripe fruit. And I'm so fortunate to be able to do that."

The strength of Foreigner's catalog has allowed them to persevere through multiple lineup shifts and continue to tour without releasing new material. The band's last album was 2009's Can't Slow Down, which was packaged with a second disc of re-recorded hits. While they've written some new material since then and may enter the studio at the end of the year, there are no plans to record a full album.

"I personally feel that it's maybe not the smartest thing for us to try to put out a whole album's worth of material," Hansen says. "It takes so much time, effort, and money, and then the day it's released it will be on a peer-to-peer site and everyone will download one single from it. I just don't think that's the way to deliver music anymore."

Instead, they've discussed combining a new song or two with another physical product, be it a T-shirt, a DVD, or something else entirely. "We'd like to do one or two mini-campaigns, because if we're going to sell a physical package, it's not enough to just put out a CD," Hansen says. "We'd rather put a couple elements together that are much harder to get on the Internet and download for free. It creates an incentive and helps people get a little more for their money as well."

Hansen joined Foreigner at a time when there wasn't much happening with the band and he was hungry for a new gig. Hansen had performed with Slash's Snakepit, and reunited with his first band Hurricane, but there wasn't anything solid on the horizon.

"I realized I needed to be more proactive in looking for something to do vocally," he says. "I was on the Internet and I read a story about a charity show Mick [Jones] was doing in Santa Barbara. To me, it was alluding to something, like maybe a solo project for Mick or maybe a new group. Foreigner had been dormant for a couple of years at that point. So I got in touch with management and they were thinking about starting up the machine again."

The phone call opened the floodgates. Foreigner's management sent Hansen recordings of five of the band's classic songs sans vocals and asked him to record parts for the tracks. The band liked the recordings, so when they came out to Los Angeles to rehearse. they arranged to audition Hansen.

"I said, 'Can I be the first guy in on the first day?'" recalls Hansen. "We jammed for an hour and a half and they called me an hour later and said, 'Listen, we're booking shows for next weekend. Can you start rehearsals tomorrow?'"

With Hansen now firmly entrenched in Foreigner and doing most of the group's press these days, fans hoping for a reunion with original vocalist Lou Gramm shouldn't hold their breath. Gramm played in Foreigner in their prime, quit in 1990, then rejoined in 1992, only to leave again in 2003. Gramm and Jones had a contentious relationship during the years they were together, and Gramm's last return led to the departures of longtime bassist Rick Wills and co-founding drummer Dennis Elliott. Now that Gramm is 10 years in Foreigner's rearview mirror, both Wills and Elliott felt it was safe to reconnect with Foreigner last month at a show in Sarasota, Florida.

"They both came and sat in, which was great," Hansen says. "They played 'Hot-Blooded,' which was pretty cool because they hadn't played a single note together in over 20 years. And then they hung out with us and told us a lot of stories about the old days that aren't fit for print."

While Hansen is thrilled that people like Jimmy Fallon continue to sing Foreigner's praises, he's ambivalent about the reality shows such as American Idol and The Voice, on which contestants have performed the band's hits like "Cold as Ice" and "Waiting for a Girl Like You."

"It's an interesting thing," he says, then pauses to pick the right words. "I know how difficult it is to sing these songs and make them sound right. And I'm not surprised that with a very short amount of rehearsal, there can be deficiencies in the performances sometimes, to put it in a very politically correct way. They're not always great. But it's always great that someone wants to do them."