Doing It Their Way

Some artists sing the song, and some let the song sing them. For Aretha Franklin, the song has always been incidental — a cheap vehicle for her amazing voice. Sinéad O'Connor, who possesses a completely different but equally distinctive talent, reveals herself in the lyrics she performs. Now both have terrific new CDs that showcase their strengths.

With just one song, Respect, Franklin introduced feminism to popular music, but she has also sung about lesser things convincingly — like riding on a freeway of love in a pink Cadillac and being drawn through destiny to duet...

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