Non-believers who don't take Nickelodeon star Ariana Grande seriously as a singer despite her Top 40 hit "The Way" and positive reviews of her debut album, "Yours Truly," might reconsider after checking out her guest appearance Friday on Jimmy Fallon's always hilarious "History of Rap" segment.
Instead of rushing through a massive list of oldies, as Fallon has done in the past with house band The Roots and Justin Timberlake, he and Grande take their time to offer enjoyable Broadway covers of classics from Jay Z, Cypress Hill and Macklemore and Ryan Lewis.
The "Sam & Cat" star sits atop of a black baby grand piano as Fallon, wearing a long, blond Fabio-esque wig and Liberace-influenced leopard print suit, singing and playing the big band era renditions.
Grande is completely in character, setting up each song with comedic banter with Fallon. For their first song, Jay Z's "99 Problems," Fallon suggests that they talk about "girl problems" and Grande is game, replying, "Shall we?"
It's gold hearing the squeaky clean 20-year-old child star singing "I got 99 problems but a bitch ain't one" in full voice, in tune and with a straight face, somehow making the song feel wholesome enough for me to play for my 10-year-old twins who are fans of Grande's TV shows.
It's an added bonus trying to figure out what song is coming up next during the three minute set. Fallon intros the second song, Cypress Hill's "Insane in the Brain," with "Who you trying to get crazy with Ariana? Don't you know I'm loco?"
Fallon is indeed a great talent here, but Grande steals the show. Her vocal styling of the brief excerpt, "Insane in the Brain," with a short bonus adlib is drenched in honey, seriously good, a great counter to Fallon's dramatization.
Of the three covers, their take on Macklemore and Ryan Lewis's "Thrift Shop" is the one that sounds closest to the original. But the immediate familiarity helped to back a major punch when Grande shifts gears near the chorus's end, slows things down and shocks with the elongated "This is f—king awesome" before closing with one of her Mariah Carey notes.
As much as I love it, I can't help but think of the incredibly talented artist Major, whose 2010 crooner remake of the Far East Movement's "Like A G6," has more than 300,000 plays on YouTube and gives you goose bumps.
Imagine what Fallon and Grande are doing, but serious, string bass and soulful, guttural vocals.
I could not resist getting his reaction to the latest History of Rap segment:
@y_billyjohnson HAH! I laud their humor...However, the Golden Era is a style you've either GOT or you DON'T. Tell Jimmy, I want next! Major
— Major. (@nowthatsMajor) September 9, 2013
I would love to see Major and Fallon run though a set of rap jams. Jimmy, make this happen.
See Major's cover of Far East Movement's "Like A G6."