The queen of soul is still the Queen. But that doesn't mean the material on Aretha Franklin's latest album is deserving of her crown. Last time around, on 1998's A Rose Is Still a Rose, Lauryn Hill, Puff Daddy and other hot hitmakers plied fresh beats and old-school samples to aim Aretha's R&B at young ears. Here, Mary J. Blige appears on and co-writes two of the hipper tracks, "Holdin' On" and "No Matter What," but both come up short in the melody, hook and rhythm departments, and those deficits afflict much of the rest. Ten different producers replace Rose's hip-hop energy with an adult-contemporary slickness that sometimes makes the sixty-one-year-old legend's voice seem shrill. Her Highness deserves more r-e-s-p-e-c-t than this.
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