While her Wikipedia bio describes her as an American singer and pianist, we all know that Aretha Louise Franklin was much more. She defied description. The only thing that comes close is Marianne Faithfull’s humble statement, “I have to tell you, the voice of God, if you really want to know is Aretha Franklin.” The late Ms. Franklin inspired countless singers, and will no doubt continue to inspire future generations with her timeless music. But, there is the question of who can pay tribute or, rather, proper “Respect” to her legacy. Not since Whitney Houston’s untimely death has such a question lingered in the hearts and minds of fans. Let’s be honest. No one is touching Aretha. No one. But last night, Ariana Grande with a little help from The Roots did her best to pay homage by performing “Natural Woman” on The Tonight Show Starring Jimmy Fallon.
The singer was scheduled to appear on The Tonight Show in support of her new album, Sweetener. However, with Grande's impressive pipes, it was no question that the "God Is A Woman" singer would have to perform one of Aretha's songs after her death . Dressed in a black sparkling dress with tuxedo sleeves and a short skirt, Ariana sang the lyrics that helped make Aretha a beloved icon. Backed by The Roots, there’s no question that the musical accompaniment was also on point. Technically, we don’t have much to say. She hit her notes, kept her tempo and even gave us a little sass as she broke it down towards the end. However, we didn’t quite get the “soul” part. That shiver up our spine was missing. We didn’t feel her. There wasn’t a moment where we felt she would undo her ponytail in an emotional outburst. Okay, maybe that’s asking too much, but you get us, right? However, she did earn her standing ovation from the audience.
As we stated before, no one is touching Aretha. Like a true diva, she effortlessly sang “Natural Woman” and made us feel how the man in her life made her feel. But, as we celebrate the life of the legend, icon, grand diva, gospel giant, singer, pianist, wife, mother, aunt and daughter, and sing off-key to her greatest hits, we give Grande’s performance an A for effort.