Home » 25 years of ‘A Rose Is Still a Rose,’ Aretha Franklin’s last grand statement and Lauryn Hill’s first on her own

25 years of ‘A Rose Is Still a Rose,’ Aretha Franklin’s last grand statement and Lauryn Hill’s first on her own

by The Grio

Editor’s note: The following article is an op-ed and the views expressed are the author’s own. Read more opinions on theGrio.

Aretha Franklin was arguably the greatest singer to walk a turn on planet earth, but her legacy endures not just because of the power of her vocals. 

When none of Franklin’s first albums or singles during her Columbia Records era were able to galvanize the record-buying public in the early 1960s, it was clear that her voice needed to be married to suitable material. Once she got to Atlantic Records in 1967 and recorded songs like “Respect” and “I Never Loved a Man (The Way I Love You),” she had found her way, beginning a reign for over three decades. 

By 1998, R&B music had changed. Throughout that year, songs like Whitney Houston’s “Heartbreak Hotel”; Destiny’s Child’s “No, No, No”; Xscape’s “Softest Place on Earth”; Brandy and Monica’s “The Boy Is Mine”; and Deborah Cox’s “Nobody’s Supposed to Be Here” dominated Black radio. 

Success in the 1990s was fickle for Franklin. Her one hit record was 1994’s “Willing to Forgive,” produced by then white-hot Kenny “Babyface” Edmonds. But in 1998, Franklin, who turned 56 that year, could still stand out among the younger singers. It was thanks to a song with a sound that no one had heard from her before; “A Rose Is Still a Rose.” 

The song affirms hope in the face of adversity, betrayal, and innocence lost. Franklin tells the story of a young girl who’s taken advantage of by a man, causing her to alter her approach to life. Franklin’s dynamic vocal over a tight, funky, and opulent hip-hop arrangement became her last big hit and a sign of things to come from a superstar in the making. 

The song’s immediate impact on listeners was mainly due to the titanic artistic collision between Franklin and the song’s…

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