Grande the 1967 classic coolly, largely avoiding the melismatic displays that she is known for. The Sweetener artist was supported by the Grace Temple’s fierce house band — thick lines from the bassist, a roaring horn section, a hyper-enthusiastic drummer — and an impressive quartet of back-up singers. These singers shadowed Grande closely, added cooing interjections and echoing key lines.
After Grande finished her performance, she was ready to leave the stage, but the master of ceremonies called her back to the podium. “When I saw Ariana Grande at the program, I thought that was a new something at Taco Bell,” he joked. “Girl, I gotta give you all your respect.” Then he turned to the crowd and asked, “did you all enjoy this icon?” They cheered in response.
Before the ceremony began, Grande worked the room with new boyfriend Pete Davidson in tow. The singer spoke to both President Bill Clinton and former Secretary of State Hillary Clinton. Grande, Davidson and Ms. Clinton all snapped a picture.
This is not Grande’s first tribute to Franklin: Shortly after Franklin’s death, Grande was scheduled to appear on The Tonight Show, and she joined the Roots to open the episode with another spot-on cover of “(You Make Me Feel Like) A Natural Woman.”
In addition, Grande reminisced about the time she spent with Franklin. “I met her a few times,” the Sweetener singer recalled. “We sang at the White House and she was so sweet and she was like so cute and I was like, ‘How are you a real person?’ It’s an honor to have met her. She called me one time, it was one time only, and she goes, ‘Hi, its Aretha.’ I’m like, ‘Franklin?’”
Franklin died on August 16 after battling with pancreatic cancer.