Who's Zoomin' Who?

Who's Zoomin' Who?

In the mid-1980s, many artists switched directions in order to appeal to a younger audience. They wanted to appear relevant—and, in this new era of MTV and blockbuster tours, they wanted to sell records. Aretha Franklin had spent the early years of the decade working with producers like Arif Mardin and Luther Vandross to create smooth, adult-contemporary albums aimed at listeners of her own age. But her successes were inconsistent, and Franklin was an artist who craved hits. For 1985’s Who’s Zoomin’ Who?, she teamed up with a young producer and writer named Narada Michael Walden. Together, they’d fashion a new sound for Franklin, one that embraced dance, electronic music, R&B, and pop. The resulting album gave Franklin the crossover success she wanted. The delightful “Freeway of Love” and its pink Cadillacs featured a boisterous sax solo from The E Street Band’s Clarence Clemons. Meanwhile, Franklin’s empowering duet with the Eurythmics’ Annie Lennox, “Sisters Are Doin’ It for Themselves,” is even more enjoyable than it seems on paper, with the two singers coaxing the best out of each other. And the infectious dance-synth-pop ballad “Another Night” enjoyed a fair amount of success on MTV, which welcomed the Queen of Soul with open arms. Who’s Zoomin’ Who? would become the singer’s highest-charting album since 1972’s Young, Gifted and Black—and, somehow, Franklin’s only album to have been certified platinum. But its achievements didn’t stop there: “Freeway of Love” drove Franklin all the way to the Grammy Awards, where she won the award for Best Female R&B Vocal Performance.

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