On her first studio album since "A Rose Is Still a Rose" (1998), Aretha Franklin underscores why she is still a musical force.

On her first studio album since "A Rose Is Still a Rose" (1998), Aretha Franklin underscores why she is still a musical force. During her nearly 40-year reign, no one has come close to even knocking her crown askew. She wrings more soul out of one she-be-do than all the pretenders to the throne put together. On her 12th Arista album, Franklin revisits the contemporary production well that she drew from for "Rose." Unlike that album—which had its stellar moments—"Happy" is a more consistent package. Whether joining forces with current (Jimmy Jam & Terry Lewis, Ron Lawrence) or veteran (Burt Bacharach) hitmakers, Franklin keeps it real, striking a believable balance between new-school vibe and down-home soul. Everyone knows that history can't be repeated. But "So Damn Happy" comes pretty damn close.—GM