Aretha Franklin Announces Concept Album Covering Iconic Female Singers

The soul legend will reinterpret hits with help from producers Kenneth "Babyface" Edmonds, Don Was and Clive Davis.

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The Queen of Soul plans to give the royal treatment to some songs made famous by other iconic female singers for her next album.

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Aretha Franklin tells Billboard that she plans to hit the studio on Jan. 1 near her hometown of Detroit to lay vocals atop tracks currently being made by producers Kenneth "Babyface" Edmonds and Don Was, with Clive Davis serving as executive producer. 

"It's a concept CD," says Franklin, noting that the 10 tracks she and Davis selected from an "ultimate list" include Barbra Streisand's "People" and Donna Summer's "Last Dance." 

"I'm even thinking of (Destiny's Child's) 'Bootylicious'," Franklin adds with a laugh. 

"It's just re-working some things that were very, very good and certainly chart-worthy and sold a lot of records," Franklin says, adding that she hopes to have the album out during the second quarter of 2014 on RCA Records. "They're records that, musically, I respected and that I liked a lot and that I would love to have one go-'round with. I aspire for musical excellence. I have very high standards where music is concerned, and I'm looking for something I haven't done, something that you haven't heard and something just absolutely smashing."

Franklin says she's been leaving Babyface and Was to their own devices while recording the instrumental tracks. 

"We haven't had a lot of discussion," she notes. "I'm pretty much leaving it up to their expertise in that area. We all have a great deal of respect for each other. They're not anybody that I would question. They've got great track records and I believe they're going to bring it home, and I'll do the rest. So I'm waiting with baited breath to hear what they're doing." 

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Franklin is also intrigued by the prospect of working with Detroit homeboy Was for the first time.

"I just met him and learned about the things that he's been doing with Bonnie Raitt and the Rolling Stones and all the people that he's been working with," she says. "Each person I spoke with about him had nothing but good things to say about him and a lot of praise and admiration. I know for certain Mr. Davis would not have asked him if he couldn't do the job." 

Franklin had to cancel a number of shows earlier this year due to an unspecified medical condition, but she says she's "feeling well and ready to go." She performs on Dec. 21 in Detroit and is booked for shows on Jan. 17-18 at Radio City Music Hall in New York. She has plans to perform in March in Atlantic City, with Toronto also in the spring and make-up dates for canceled shows in Montreal and Ottawa. She's also pursuing a distribution deal for her Aretha's Records label, which will be putting out albums by her son Kecalf, a Christian rapper, and grandson Jordan, a pop singer.