I am beside myself because Aretha Franklin's promotional tour for her new album Aretha Franklin Sings The Great Diva Classics is yielding some delicious online entertainment.
The video below is probably the shadiest, most politely dismissive, antagonistic, awkward 11 minutes I have ever seen. But actually all of her appearances I've seen are in this same vein. She has no time for any of your insipid questions, and she is also explicitly clear about the fact that almost no one living, certainly no one with a recording contract or large fanbase, can sing at all, much less as well as her.
Poor unsuspecting Wall Street Journal senior editor Christopher John Farley (I'm sure Aretha didn't learn his full name) is severely out of his depth doing an interview with someone who apparently hates being asked questions. There is so much material ripe for analysis - please I beg, watch the entire video. I have literally never seen someone so dismissive of the interview process.
Right out the gate she refuses to embellish or add artistic mystery to the album's conception - always direct to the point of awkwardness. When asked how she came up with the idea for the album: "As I said - it was the chairman's idea. Mr. Davis. The COO of RCA records brought me the list...I already owned some of the albums" Ok. This is just one minute in. There's a way to make a meal (or like, longer than one sentence) out of a little anecdote during interview segments or late night shows - but it seems Ms. Franklin is full and doesn't want no Wall Street Journal cooking. She's like, I'm not some struggling garage performance artist with a concept album. i didn't even have to do this! COOs give me lists and I sing them. Bow down bitches.
Next Chris asks her to do a free word association with pop stars, some of who she covers on the album. Now... cleary, with Hateretha Franklin this is like sidling up to the ripe shade tree with your new wicker basket and waiting for it's bountiful shady-fruit to fall down and bust you in the face. I could've told you not to ask, but he did and the results are hilarious. Note when she mentions singing and when she doesn't:
Hateretha: Young Singer, Good singer.
Chris: Alicia Keys
Hateretha: Young Performer, Good Writer, Good Producer
Chris: Taylor Swift
Hateretha: (audible sigh - struggles to find a compliment) "......Okaaayyy...Great gowns, beautiful gowns."
Chris: Whitney Houston
Hateretha: Whitney was a talent. Definitely a talent. She had a gift.
Chris: Nicki Minaj
Hateretha: Nciki Minaj, hmmm I'm gonna pass on that one.
Later Hateretha also looks at Chris like he's stupid when he asks why Jennifer Hudson is one of her favorite singers, responding, "Jennifer Hudson is a very good singer." As an afterthought, perhaps remembering she is there in an interview to talk about things, she adds, "She's likeable."
Underneath it all you can tell Queen Franklin thinks it's a joke to compare vocal powerhouses like herself, Whitney Houston, and Jennifer Hudson with people who use autotune, an appalling technology she professes never to have heard of prior to Chris bringing it up. She wants you to know that half of the women who's songs she's covering didn't write them anyway, and that songs are always up for better interpretation by someone superior: "We [singers] don't own them [the songs]," she states.
Her point? She is from another era and another league. I'm fine with the reminder and many more, as long they're always on film like this masterpiece of tension.