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Yet her next big project will take her face-to-face with at least 20 people, aspiring singers, to be exact. Starting in November, Franklin, who says she is “semiretiring,” will lead twice-weekly vocal classes at the Westin Hotel in Southfield, Mich.; a New York master class may follow. “It’s a natural progression,” she says. “I want to see what singers are coming along and who they are going to be, in my opinion.” She doesn’t have any students just yet, but is “going to put out the call and do the auditions and we’ll go from there.”
And, though she is quick to decry the lack of “the legends” on the radio — “there’s a huge, huge audience out there for the Robertas, the Dionnes, the Streisands” — she says she enjoys listening to contemporary artists, including R&B singers Maxwell and Keyshia Cole, both of whom she covers in concert, as well as Diddy, Fantasia and Jennifer Hudson. And yes, she witnessed Kanye West’s pro-Beyoncé Knowles outburst during Taylor Swift’s MTV Video Music Awards acceptance speech. “I saw it. I was watching. That’s my industry,” she says. “I think that Beyoncé [letting Swift finish her speech] was very classy and very appropriate.”
Franklin is also working on an album that she plans to sell via QVC and possibly distribute through Wal-Mart. It’s called “Aretha: A Woman Falling Out of Love.” (“With an emphasis on ‘out,’” she says, avoiding details.)
Still, perhaps the musical project most important to her is also the smallest: her granddaughter, Victory. “She is going to be a singer,” Franklin proclaims, nodding her head for emphasis. “Victory will have the victory.” The 10-year-old performed for the first time last summer during one of Franklin’s shows at the Borgata in Atlantic City. “I asked her, ‘Victory, what are you going to sing?’ She said, ‘Grandma, I wanna sing Alicia Keys.’ And I said, ‘Did you say, ‘Aretha, please’? You got to learn Grandma’s songs!” Franklin says in mock annoyance. In the end, though, Victory defeated Grandma this time around, belting out “No One” by Keys.