Before Ariana Grande became the biggest pop star in the world, she dazzled the hearts of YouTubers everywhere with covers of popular songs. (Oh, and some killer impressions.) Grande’s amazing voice helped her tackle songs by the late Whitney Houston and Mariah Carey with ease and aplomb. We hope these legendary divas approve of the pint-sized singer’s attempts at their catalogs. (We’re not sure about Carey, tbh.) If they don’t, we give Grande a big thumps up. And you will, too, after you check out these 10 incredible videos.
In other news, Gossip Table has some insight on the singer’s recent breakup with Big Sean.
“Express Yourself” and “Born This Way” by Madonna/Lady Gaga
Grande combines the Queen of Pop’s ’80s anthem with Mother Monster’s ode to self-acceptance. (She was no doubt playing off the controversy surrounding “Born This Way’s” 2011 debut, when people started comparing it a little too closely to “Express Yourself.” Reductive, right?) No matter her intention, Grande breathes fresh air into this disco-fied mash-up. You can hit repeat, if you want.
“Emotions” by Mariah Carey
Carey’s energetic ’90s track gets an update from Grande, who can hit those whistle tones like it’s no big deal. Truthfully, the two recordings sound eerily similar, so this is a great example of a true blue cover. We love and appreciate both renditions.
“I Have Nothing” by Whitney Houston
No one can do it like Houston, but Grande gives a powerhouse performance of “I Have Nothing.” (And in front of President Barack Obama, no less.) She sounds lovely.
“If I Ain’t Got You” by Alicia Keys
Ari infuses a pop flavor into Keys’ soulful 2004 tune. This cover is certainly one of Grande’s most versatile to date.
“Rolling in the Deep” by Adele
Sure, she flubs the lyrics a tad (It’s “could have had it all,” not “should”), but Grande’s take on Adele’s massive 2011 single is pretty damn good. And the fact she’s singing acapella is impressive AF.
“I Believe in You and Me” by Whitney Houston
Grande’s slowed-down, acapella version of Houston’s ballad feels haunting because of her microphone’s feedback. It’s almost as if Grande is singing with Houston’s spirit in her, and the results are quite breathtaking. We’re positive Houston would have approved.
“Sweet Life” by Frank Ocean
Another interesting rendition. Grande strips down the bubbly production of Ocean’s original song and relies simply on her voice. Like “If I Ain’t Got You,” there’s a definite pop element to this cover, which isn’t a bad thing. It’s worth a listen.
“All I Want for Christmas is You” by Mariah Carey
Let the comparisons begin, especially in light of Carey’s recent rough performance of this song. Pettiness aside, Grande gives a joyous performance of the ’90s holiday staple. However, is it as good as Carey’s original recording? No.
“Hurt” by Christina Aguilera
This throwback cover (Grande did it in 2011) is another sans-instrumental effort. While Aguilera’s version displays more control than Ari’s, this video shows the “Break Free” singer’s raw chops.
“Unwritten” by Natasha Bedingfield
Grande updates Bedingfield’s breezy track with a Broadway-esque bravado. Again, she strips down the song’s shimmery beats and lets her voice do the heavy lifting. It’s magic. (Fun fact: Grande sang this song for her Nickelodeon Victorious callback. Clearly, it worked.)