It is unlikely that music fans would expect a collaboration between singer/songwriter and bassist extraordinaire Thundercat, and pop star Ariana Grande. However, the two of them appeared on stage together this past Friday night as part of Adult Swim’s Adult Swim Festival, a two day celebration of music and comedy, and put on a short yet terrific set.
Although the band just consisted of Thundercat on bass and vocals, Grande on vocals, DOMi on keyboard and JD Beck on drums, their music completely fills up the room. Thundercat’s bass playing is as technically brilliant as it is musically intriguing, and his ability to sing in both the tenor and falsetto ranges is immaculate. His falsetto ability allows him to effortlessly harmonize with Grande, and the two of them have an instant vocal chemistry than can be felt right at the start. Grande takes over the lead vocals on the second verse with ease, and once again Thundercat’s backing falsetto harmonies add a beautiful layer to the song. Mid song, the chill r&b vibe shifts into a full on jazz jam, as Thundercat and DOMi trade solos back and fourth while Beck contributes his mystical, high velocity drumming in the background. The performance truly takes the space of some kind of r&b-jazz fusion, and Thundercat’s bass playing is the singular driving force that allows the song to take on so many different styles.
Without the joy of live music, virtual and televised concerts like this will continue to occur, and will be welcome happenings among music fans. Unlikely collaborations, such as Ariana Grande taking the stage with Thundercat, are as surprising as they are exciting, especially when the collaborating artists are coming from two different styles of music. Hopefully live music returns to our lives soon, but in the meantime, music fans can expect their favorite artists to seek out opportunities to perform for their fans through television, streaming or other forms of media.