Aretha Franklin – ‘A Rose Is Still A Rose': Throwback Video of the Day
Aretha Franklin went through a music transformation in 1998. The "Respect" diva, who maintained a prolific career up until that point, hadn’t released any new music since What You See Is What You Sweat album, seven years earlier. The urban music landscape had changed, going from live instrumentation to digital audio workstations like FruityLoops and heavy sampling that appealed to younger audiences. Franklin needed a new sound, so she called up the era’s beatmakers – Jermaine Dupri, Dallas Austin, Sean Combs and Lauryn Hill – to cook up something fresh. What resulted was A Rose Is Still A Rose, her thirty-seventh studio album. The title single was written and produced by Lauryn Hill, who, at the time, was riding high off the success of her multi-platinum debut The Miseducation of Lauryn Hill. The song featured a modern soul production and complemented Franklin's higher register, which had suffered due to years of her smoking packs of Kools cigarettes.
The single "A Rose Is Still A Rose" is the classic ode to wiser older women of the community giving advice to young women who are new to the game of love, it's a cautionary tale, without being preachy. The music video is a flower-filled euphoria that flashes between fantasy and reality, as the video’s protagonist played by Elise Neal, loses her innocence by her boyfriend, played by Q-Tip, and struggles to find her way. New York City, where the video was shot, becomes a cold place, as Neal learns very quickly, but finds salvation after discovering the secret door to the euphoric haven where Franklin and her friends — Lauryn Hill, who also directed the music video, Faith Evans, Amel Larrieux and Cassandra Lucas and Charisse Rose of Changing Faces — reside.
The track received positive reviews; Rolling Stone said it “establishes Hill as one of R&B’s most gifted writer/producers, and renders her legendary and contemporary all at once.” And, the song resonated with a wider audience, peaking at No. 26 on the Billboard 100. The song also garnered Franklin two Grammy nominations a year later: Best Female R&B Vocal Performance and Best R&B Song (though it was entangled in Hill's bitter lawsuit against New Ark Entertainment, as the latter claimed to have made sizable, uncredited production contributions to the track). The album, which was certified gold, received favorable reviews from music critics, and was nominated for Best R&B Album, and was considered to be Franklin’s most successful career albums. Ms. Franklin had become the rose that blossomed.