Yo-Yo Ma recently gave Desus and Mero a tour of his stomping (or gently tapping) grounds of Cambridge, Massachusetts. The entire video documenting the trio’s journey is great, but we’re here to talk about a new batch of turn of the millennium covers Ma unleashed during his spot on the show.
After bringing them to his favorite barbershop in the city, Ma answers questions about why he stopped wearing his hair long, discusses cello-human hybrid babies, and then gives his hosts a private concert. Desus and Mero make a few requests, and Ma complies. In tribute to the late DMX, Ma plays the instrumental to the “Ruff Ryders’ Anthem.” Then, because she “might be in conservatory right now,” Desus suggests Ma perform Britney Spears’ “Toxic,” which he does by playing one section of the verse while his interviewers yell out the other.
The string part of Sisqó’s “Thong Song”—the most emotionally charged ode to underwear in musical history—is already pretty great, but when he’s asked to take a crack at his own version of it, Ma plays a plaintive cover that makes Desus reflect sadly on “all the little panties that want to be thongs.” He and Mero are so moved by the music that they launch into a poetic celebration of all that the humble garment has given to the world.
Somehow managing to top the raw emotion of this moment, Ma finishes off his performance by playing noted cellist—and Desus’ middle school’s namesake—Pablo Casals’ favorite song. Desus and Mero start off swaying around and dancing in their seats, but end up sitting kind of stunned by the time the piece is finished. As it turns out, Yo-Yo Ma can play some pretty beautiful music, even when that music has nothing to do with thongs.
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