Aretha Franklin • “Rolling In The Deep (The Aretha Version)” • RCA • Single Release: September 29, 2014
Who better to cover a diva than a diva herself? Makes logical sense right? On her new album, Aretha Franklin Sings The Great Diva Classics, Aretha Franklin covers the ‘great’ Adele’s “Rolling In The Deep.” A piece of cake right – well, no, not in the least. “Rolling In The Deep” may not rank up there with the difficulty of say Whitney Houston, Mariah Carey, or even Aretha’s own classics, but doing the original justice requires the upmost skill. How does Franklin do with Adele’s now seminal, Grammy-award winning classic? Honestly, better than expected.
Let’s first address the elephant in the room. Aretha Franklin does not out sing Adele – period. In other words, Adele should have no fear than her original is intact. That’s no insult to Franklin, as she shines on her soulful runs, which is a clear departure from Adele’s original. These runs during the refrain definitely give Franklin some ownership and exhibit why she is among the greatest to ever sing.
The verses aren’t nearly as compelling, particularly the first which is rough around the edges. The biggest turn off of the first verse is a specifically autotune portion that just sounds like the vocal would’ve been better off rerecorded and an all natural (“See how I’ll leave with every piece of you.”). The nuances, cracks, and rawness of Adele’s vocals are missed on the verses in particular. But once she is backed by gospel backing vocalists and allowed to stretch beyond the melody, Franklin is in her zone.
Now should there be some convoluted soul that doesn’t like Franklin’s vocal style (blasphemy, damnable!), this will probably raise those ‘Aretha desecrated Adele’s classic.’ Honestly, it’s not that “deep” (no pun intended). This is Franklin’s interpretation, and she clearly seeks to make it attuned to her sensibilities. I mean, there wasn’t the slightest bit of reference to “Ain’t No Mountain High Enough” in Adele’s original. After all, that’s why this parenthesized, ‘The Aretha Version.’
Final thoughts? It’s good to hear Franklin still has some power about her voice, even in her 70s. Franklin is a living legend, and for her musical contributions, she is deserving of the upmost respect. That said, “Rolling In the Deep (The Aretha Version)” is a solid listen, if a bit overcooked. Too much autotune, too much drama with the quote of “Ain’t No Mountain High Enough,” and arguably over sung, even for Aretha’s version. Flawed, but not a total miss by any means.