Ariana Grande Honored Aretha Franklin With a Powerful Performance of “A Natural Woman”

“We’re going to celebrate her.”

ariana grande natural woman tribute
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Ariana Grande has always credited her favorite “divas,” including Celine Dion and Mariah Carey, with inspiring her to use her own gorgeous and far-ranging voice. On Thursday night, Grande had the chance to honor one of her heroes with that voice when she performed “(You Make Me Feel Like) A Natural Woman” on The Tonight Show only a few hours after Aretha Franklin was reported to have died after a long battle with pancreatic cancer.

Grande’s emotional and spot-on performance of the 1968 hit opened Thursday night’s episode of The Tonight Show, where Grande had previously only been planning on promoting her new album Sweetener. Not only was she not planning on singing any of her own songs, but TMZ reports that it also took some convincing for Grande to take the stage with the Roots, since she was so heartbroken over the death of one of her biggest influences. Eventually, of course, she did, wearing a shiny oversized black blazer over short shorts and her signature high ponytail; per TMZ, after receiving a standing ovation for the incredible performance, Grande was overcome by emotion and exited the stage in tears.

Watch her entire goosebump-inducing tribute to the Queen of Soul here:

Later, when the “God Is a Woman” singer sat down to chat with host Jimmy Fallon, she opened up about the many interactions she’d been lucky enough to have with Franklin. “We sang at the White House and she was so sweet. She was, like, so cute, and I was like, ‘How are you a real person?'” Grande said. “It’s an honor to have met her, and we’re gonna celebrate her.” She also recalled the “one time only” that Franklin surprised her with a phone call, to ask if Grande would listen to a relative’s music. “I was like, ‘Oh my god, I’d be honored to listen. Thank you for thinking of me. OK, just, like, text me the MP3 or something.’ And she was like, ‘Well, I don’t know how to do that, so I’m gonna send it to you,'” Grande remembered with a laugh, adding, “And like four months later, I got a package with, like, a CD!”