Aretha Franklin on Mentoring 'American Idol' Singers & Whether She Still Wants to Be a Judge
Aretha Franklin is still happily, and actively, promoting 2014's Aretha Franklin Sings the Great Diva Classics. But she told Billboard she's ready to get back into something new with longtime ally and cohort Clive Davis.
"Clive and I are going to get together on what the new CD is going to be probably in the next month or so, and I'm looking forward to it," Franklin said before opening Wednesday's (March 4) episode of American Idol with her version of Gloria Gaynor's "I Will Survive," the latest single from Diva Classics, at the Fillmore Detroit in her hometown.
Franklin has spent much of the week on Idol duty. In addition to the performance she also spent time with the 24 semifinalists, who made the trip to Detroit for Motown-themed episodes, where the final 16 are revealed. Among the topics were Detroit's French origins and the city's rich musical history. "I just told them that other than being the Motor City and the place where cars and stars and fabulous people live that Motown, Detroit, is a rallying city, and that's one of the things I like most about Detroit. When people are down and out, Detroit will rally."
Franklin said she also had some pragmatic messages for the Idol contestants, who she found to be "eager and very, very bright kids." "I think the most important advice I gave them was being responsible in this business," she said. "You have to be responsible. If you get a reputation for being a no-show, you're out. You can be out of it before you get in it. That was one of the main things I stressed to them, just being responsible. If you make a commitment, keep it." As singers, Franklin said she advised the Idol hopefuls to "just be themselves more than anything else."
The audience with the Queen was certainly appreciated by the 2 dozen contestants. "She talked to us a lot about the music industry in general -- a lot about taking care of your finances, taking care of yourself and just becoming the artist you want to be," said Nick Fradiani. "It was a real helpful talk. She went above and beyond what she had to do." Fifteen-year-old Daniel Seavey added that, "A lot of people who give you advice tend to go straight to the music of it. I've already taken in a lot of that, so to have someone like her give us the logistics of it all and how the background stuff works, that helped me a lot."
Franklin is an Idol fan and lists season 3 winner Fantasia Barrino as her favorite. But though she once voiced a desire to be an Idol judge, that's no longer on her wish list. "At this point, I wouldn't even have time," said Franklin, who in addition to her own recording projects and performing commitments is also mentoring a grandson and granddaughter who are both fledgling artists.