As an eternal fan of the Queen of Soul Aretha Franklin, this take on Adele’s “Rolling In The Deep” is a bit of a mess. Let me list the reasons why I feel it is so:
1. Chopped & Screwed and Over Processed Vocals
Clive Davis as executive producer of this production really did Aretha a disservice by adding so much heavy processing on her vocal. I can hear the cut & paste and the slightly auto-tuned vocal throughout. Now, is this due to Aretha’s voice not holding up over the years or has Clive just decided she needed this digital treatment or what? What made Aretha “Aretha” was her tone, the SOUL, behind her performances. That’s been stripped here. It’s TOO perfect. The old story goes that Aretha was sick while recording “Respect” and you can hear the vocal imperfections throughout — not so here. She’s been nudged and slid and auto-tuned to death, and it really gives this track a flat feel.
2. Overproduced Track
Ree-Ree don’t need no production. Where Adele kept the music simple on the original “Rolling In The Deep,” Clive and crew seemingly forgo that for a schmaltzy track that is just doing too much. The simplicity is gone, and add that on top of Aretha’s T-Pain’ed vocals, and you see why I am sitting here scratching my head like “girl, whet?” The phrasing is wholly Aretha and it’s cool, but it’s lost so many times throughout this foolery of a track.
3. “Ain’t No Mountain High Enough” — good idea in theory, but nah.
I could see theoretically why someone thought this was a good idea, but it comes in and batters you over the head, especially ON TOP of all the points I made above. It’s just too much. And if this is a covers album, why not just do a separate cover of the song? It comes in with a bunch of clipped choir vocals and Aretha at that point has really devolved to a bunch of ad-libs that just muddy the waters even more, and it leaves the song ending on a sour note.
4. What are the lyrics, Aretha?
There is SO much potential for this to have been great. This a song that Aretha could chew up like it was nothing, and she probably does LIVE. However, with the heavy processing, and her classic Aretha “tone,” it becomes an unintelligible mess full of ad-libs, whoops, random choir vocals and more. Half of the lyrics are hard to understand. Aretha’s indomitable voice is rendered to sounding like a vat of Jello Pudding is being passed around the recording booth.
Production is key, and whoever handled this dropped the ball GREATLY. I’m a fan of Aretha, but no, this cover is not great. It could have been, but it just…isn’t.
Aretha Franklin Sings the Great Diva Classics is due out October 21st, and also features her covering an Alicia Keys song. Oh lord…