Following Aretha Franklin’s death, the tributes have been pouring in. While artists like Mariah Carey, Lauryn Hill, and Missy Elliott penned heartfelt tributes, Ariana Grande paid homage to the Queen of Soul with an emotional performance on “The Tonight Show.”
Joined by The Roots, the pop superstar opened Thursday’s show with a cover of “(You Make Me Feel Like) A Natural Woman.” Wearing a glittery black blazer and long ponytail, Ariana showcased her powerful pipes while belting out Franklin’s 1967 classic.
But the performance almost didn’t happen. According to TMZ, when Ariana arrived on set, producers asked if she would perform an Aretha tribute, but Ariana said she was too emotional in the wake of her death. Following some convincing from Questlove, she agreed to perform the song with The Roots. She reportedly left the stage in tears following the performance.
“I met her a few times. We sang at the White House and she was so sweet, she was so cute,” Grande told Fallon. “It’s an honor to have met her and we’re gonna celebrate her.”
She also recalled receiving a call from Franklin, who wanted to have her nephew or grandson send her his music. Ariana told her to text an MP3, but Franklin ended up mailing her a package, which arrived months later.
Ariana wasn’t the only singer paying tribute to the Queen of Soul. Alicia Keys also covered “(You Make Me Feel Like) A Natural Woman” during Episode 3 of Nicki Minaj’s Queen Radio on Beats 1.
“She was able to touch so many people, divinely. She touched me,” said Alicia. “Some of my greatest songs were inspired by hers that I loved. Talk about queens–she was definitely the queen. She stepped into the room and everyone bowed down.”