A Rose Is Still a Rose
She could sing the words in the phone book and make them sound mesmerizingly soulful. Yet Aretha Franklin has still managed to put out some very lackluster albums, especially in the past 10 years. That cool streak is brought to an abrupt and stunning end with this triumphant return to form. Sounding thoroughly contemporary without bowing to trends, the Queen of Soul gets a big lift here from several key contributors, most notably new sensation Lauryn Hill, who wrote and produced the hip-hop gem of a title track. Other high points abound, including Daryl Simmons' extraordinarily powerful “In Case You Forgot,” the killer groove of Dallas Austin's “I'll Dip” and the seven-minute set closing Franklin original “The Woman.” As the latter song and others prove, she's lost nothing with time.