Who's Zoomin' Who?

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Who's Zoomin' Who?
Who's Zoomin Who album.jpg
Studio album by Aretha Franklin
Released July 9, 1985 (1985-07-09)
Recorded October 1984 – May 1985
Studio
Genre
Length 47:15
Label Arista
Producer
Aretha Franklin chronology
Get It Right
(1983)Get It Right1983
Who's Zoomin' Who?
(1985)
Aretha
(1986)Aretha1986
Singles from Who's Zoomin' Who?
  1. "Freeway of Love"
    Released: June 1985
  2. "Who's Zoomin' Who"
    Released: August 1985
  3. "Sisters Are Doin' It for Themselves"
    Released: October 1985
  4. "Another Night"
    Released: 1986
  5. "Ain't Nobody Ever Loved You"
    Released: 1986

Who's Zoomin' Who? is the thirtieth studio album by American singer Aretha Franklin. It was released by Arista Records on July 9, 1985 in the United States. A breakaway from the Luther Vandross–produced adult contemporary sound of her previous albums Jump to It (1982) and Get It Right (1983), Franklin worked with producer Narada Michael Walden on the majority of the album, envisioning "a record with a younger sound to it."[1] As a result, Who's Zoomin' Who? contains influences of several popular mid–1980s genres, including dance pop, synth-pop, and contemporary R&B as well as pop songs with crossover appeal.

Released to praising reviews, Who's Zoomin' Who? became Franklin's highest-charting album since Young, Gifted and Black (1972) and her first and only studio album to earn a platinum certification from the Recording Industry Association of America (RIAA), with over one million copies physically distributed. A top ten entry in New Zealand and Sweden, the album also went platinum in Canada and reached silver status in the United Kingdom. "Freeway of Love", the album's lead single, proved both a commercial success, as well as a career achievement for Franklin, earning her a Grammy Award for Best Female R&B Vocal Performance while holding the number-one position on Billboard's Hot R&B/Hip-Hop Songs chart for five consecutive weeks.

Who's Zoomin' Who? was considered Franklin's comeback album, with many journalists comparing its performance to Tina Turner's late-career crossover success with her album Private Dancer (1984), and marked the start of several collaborations with Walden. With the album, the singer established herself as a star of music video, with popular videos for "Freeway of Love", "Sisters Are Doin' It for Themselves" and Another Night" enjoying heavy rotation on MTV. In 1989, the album was ranked number 89 on Rolling Stone magazine's 100 Best Albums of the Eighties listing.[2] At the time of its release, Franklin herself rated Who's Zoomin' Who? as one of her best albums ever recorded.[1]

Background[edit]

In 1983, Franklin released her twenty-ninth studio album Get It Right. Produced by singer Luther Vandross, following his successful teaming with the singer on her 1982 album Jump to It, it spawned the Hot R&B/Hip-Hop Songs number-one hit "Get It Right" but became a moderate commercial success in the United States only where it peaked at number 36 on US Billboard 200.[3] Franklin spent many of the following years in her hometown of Detroit, looking after her seriously ill father, the Reverend C. L. Franklin. After her father died in 1984, the singer began thinking about returning to the music scene.[2] In an interview with Rolling Stone magazine, Franklin said that following Get It Right, she wanted to do "a record with a younger sound to it. I'd been listening to the radio and I really liked what I heard. I figured to myself that it was time for me to do something serious."[1]

Arista Records arranged a telephone conversation with producer and singer Narada Michael Walden to discuss working together on Franklin's next studio album.[2] Since Franklin disliked traveling, Walden subsequently started assembling backing tracks in Los Angeles and brought the session tapes to Detroit, where Franklin added her vocals.[2] According to Walden, Franklin had to get reacquainted with being in the studio" following her hiatus but "it didn't take long for the singer to regain her form."[2] Despite Franklin's reputation as a singer, Walden found her easy to work with, citing her a "black Mae West."[2] Further elaborating on the recording process, he stated: "She'll sing a song down in the lower range maybe four or five times. Then she'll sing it up in her range and do two or three takes."[2] Looking for a male singer to work with Franklin on the duet song "Push", Walden "put out signals, but a lot of people were frightened to death to sing" with Franklin. Former The J. Geils Band vocalist Peter Wolf, however, jumped at the chance.[2]

Critical reception[edit]

Professional ratings
Review scores
SourceRating
AllMusic3.5/5 stars[4]
Robert ChristgauA[5]
Peoplefavorable[6]
Rolling Stonefavorable[3]

Who's Zoomin' Who? received generally favorable reviews from music critics. AllMusic editor Craig Lytle called the album a return "in style" and praised the album for its singles as well as Franklin's vocal performance which he declared as "lively", "laudable" and "soulful."[4] Lytle rated the album three and a half out of five stars.[4] in his review for The Village Voice, Robert Christgau found that Franlin "hasn't done anything near this good in over a dozen [years]. It couldn't have happened without the top-forty revival, and it couldn't have happened without Narada Michael Walden, who unhesitatingly plugged his first legend into one pop format after another and came up with classics almost every time." Giving the album an A rating, he concluded that "from lead rocker to hooked ballad to Caribe Richie carnivalesque, these songs go no deeper than Franklin can make them by breathing, but their instant inevitability could keep this album alive for years."[5]

Rolling Stone critic Vince Aletti wrote that "though Who’s Zoomin’ Who? never quite comes together as an album, Walden’s ambitious eclecticism works cut by cut with few exceptions, and astonishingly, the hype is nearly justified: this is some of Aretha Franklin’s best work since the 1960s." He felt that "the example of Tina Turner acted as goad and inspiration, and the edge of rich brashness in Aretha’s performances seems sparked by Turner’s electric drive [...] Zoomin's seems so anxious to cover all the angles that it scatters Aretha’s energies rather than focusing them. Still, Franklin sweeps through this stylistic hodgepodge with more fire and verve than she’s displayed in years. Even if this isn’t her crossover breakthrough, there’s enough vocal brilliance here to stun any listener within range."[3] Similiarly, People found that Frankin "has never sounded better than she does on this album" but criticized the project for being "less than it might have been." The magazine noted that while Walden "a way of making mediocre singers sound better than they are, he also has a way of making wonderful singers sound less wonderful, putting them up against grinding soul-funk backgrounds with which even someone like Franklin has trouble competing.[6] In 1989, Rolling Stone ranked Who's Zoomin' Who? 85th on its 100 Best Albums of the Eighties listing.[7]

Chart performance[edit]

In the United States, Who's Zoomin' Who? debuted and peaked at number 13 on the Billboard 200, becoming Franklin's highest-charting album since Young, Gifted and Black had reached number eleven in 1972.[8] It also reached number three on the Top R&B/Hip-Hop Albums chart. The singer's biggest commercial in years, the album reached gold status by August and was eventually certified platinum by the Recording Industry Association of America (RIAA) in December 1985, indicating sales in excess of 1.0 million copies.[9] Franklin's biggest seller within her discography, it would remain her final album to enter the top twenty until the release of her 2014 album Aretha Franklin Sings the Great Diva Classics which also peaked at number 13 and number three on Billboard 200 and the Top R&B/Hip-Hop Albums.[8]

In Canada and United Kingdom, Who's Zoomin' Who? also ranks among Franklin's biggest-selling albums.[10][11] It was certified platinum by Music Canada and silver by the British Phonographic Industry (BPI), while reaching number 13 on the Canadian and 49 on the British Albums Chart, respectively.[12][13] Elsewhere, the album entered the top ten in New Zealand and Sweden, remaining Franklin's highest-charting album in both nations until her death in 2018,[14][15] while making it to the top twenty in Australia and Norway.[16] Who's Zoomin' Who? was considered Franklin's comeback album, with many journalist comparing its performance to Tina Turner's late career crossover success with her album Private Dancer (1984), and marked the start of several collaborations with Walden. With the album, the singer established herself as a star of music video, with popular videos for "Freeway of Love", "Sisters Are Doin' It for Themselves" and Another Night" enjoyoing heavy rotation on MTV.[2]

Track listing[edit]

Side one
No.TitleWriter(s)Producer(s)Length
1."Freeway of Love"Walden5:52
2."Another Night"
  • Beppe Cantarelli
  • Roy Freeland
Walden4:31
3."Sweet Bitter Love"Van McCoyFranklin5:11
4."Who's Zoomin' Who"
Walden4:44
Side two
No.TitleWriter(s)Producer(s)Length
5."Sisters Are Doin' It for Themselves" (with Eurythmics)Stewart5:52
6."Until You Say You Love Me"
  • Glass
  • Walden
Walden4:23
7."Ain't Nobody Ever Loved You"
  • Cohen
  • Walden
Walden4:50
8."Push" (with Peter Wolf)
  • Cohen
  • Walden
Walden4:35
9."Integrity"FranklinFranklin4:24

Personnel[edit]

Production[edit]

Charts[edit]

Certifications[edit]

Region Certification Certified units/Sales
Canada (Music Canada)[12] Platinum 100,000^
United Kingdom (BPI)[13] Silver 60,000^
United States (RIAA)[9] Platinum 1,000,000^

^shipments figures based on certification alone

References[edit]

  1. ^ a b c Rolling Stone magazine, circa 1985 - upon the release of "Who's Zoomin' Who", "Aretha Franklin's New Wave of Pop" written by Eliza Graham, page 11.
  2. ^ a b c d e f g h i "100 Best Albums of the Eighties". Rolling Stone. Retrieved August 30, 2018.
  3. ^ a b c "Review: Who's Zoomin' Who?". Rolling Stone. Retrieved August 30, 2018.
  4. ^ a b c "Review: Who's Zoomin' Who?". AllMusic. Retrieved August 30, 2018.
  5. ^ a b "Aretha Franklin". RobertChristgau.com. Retrieved August 30, 2018.
  6. ^ a b "Picks and Pans Review: Who's Zoomin' Who?". People. Retrieved August 30, 2018.
  7. ^ "100 Best Albums of the Eighties". Rolling Stone. Retrieved August 30, 2018.
  8. ^ a b c "Aretha Franklin Chart History (Billboard 200)". Billboard. Retrieved August 16, 2018.
  9. ^ a b "American album certifications – Aretha Franklin – Who's Zoomin' Who?". Recording Industry Association of America. December 10, 1985. Retrieved August 16, 2018. If necessary, click Advanced, then click Format, then select Album, then click SEARCH. 
  10. ^ a b "Top RPM Albums: Issue 0578". RPM. Library and Archives Canada. Retrieved August 16, 2018.
  11. ^ a b "Official Albums Chart Top 100". Official Charts Company. Retrieved August 16, 2018.
  12. ^ a b "Canadian album certifications – Aretha Franklin – Who's Zoomin Who?". Music Canada. December 17, 1985. Retrieved August 16, 2018.
  13. ^ a b "British album certifications – Aretha Franklin – Who's Zoomin' Who". British Phonographic Industry. May 28, 1986. Retrieved August 16, 2018. Select albums in the Format field. Select Silver in the Certification field. Type Who's Zoomin' Who in the "Search BPI Awards" field and then press Enter.
  14. ^ a b "Charts.org.nz – Aretha Franklin – Who's Zoomin' Who?". Hung Medien. Retrieved August 16, 2018.
  15. ^ a b "Swedishcharts.com – Aretha Franklin – Who's Zoomin' Who?". Hung Medien. Retrieved August 16, 2018.
  16. ^ a b "Norwegiancharts.com – Aretha Franklin – Who's Zoomin' Who?". Hung Medien. Retrieved August 16, 2018.
  17. ^ Kent, David (1993). Australian Chart Book 1970–1992. St Ives, NSW: Australian Chart Book. ISBN 0-646-11917-6.
  18. ^ "Dutchcharts.nl – Aretha Franklin – Who's Zoomin' Who?" (in Dutch). Hung Medien. Retrieved August 16, 2018.
  19. ^ Pennanen, Timo (2006). Sisältää hitin – levyt ja esittäjät Suomen musiikkilistoilla vuodesta 1972 (in Finnish) (1st ed.). Helsinki: Kustannusosakeyhtiö Otava. ISBN 978-951-1-21053-5.
  20. ^ "Offiziellecharts.de – Aretha Franklin – Who's Zoomin' Who?" (in German). GfK Entertainment Charts. Retrieved August 16, 2018.
  21. ^ "Swisscharts.com – Aretha Franklin – Who's Zoomin' Who?". Hung Medien. Retrieved August 16, 2018.
  22. ^ "Aretha Franklin Chart History (Top R&B/Hip-Hop Albums)". Billboard. Retrieved August 16, 2018.
  23. ^ "Billboard 200: Year End 1986". Billboard. Retrieved August 30, 2018.