After making her debut with 1989's All Hail the Queen, she was crowned hip-hop royalty as a ground-breaking female rapper. But anyone who saw her belt out "When You're Good to Mama" in Chicago knows that Queen Latifah can sing. Her Oscar-nominated turn as Mama Morton seems to have inspired this disc, on which Latifah entirely eschews rapping for singing, covering jazz standards as well as pop and soul nuggets. And while the results are respectable (she's a lot better at the torch-song thing than, say, Rod Stewart), the Queen mostly comes off as common. Although she possesses a full-bodied alto and a natural sense of rhythm, Latifah, who uses her real name in the CD title, doesn't have the range or vocal dynamics to really distinguish her renderings of classics like "I Put a Spell on You" and the 1949 Dinah Washington hit "Baby Get Lost." Nor do the arrangements bring fresh spins to golden oldies such as Bill Withers's "The Same Love That Made Me Laugh" and Al Green's "Simply Beautiful" (on which Rev. Al himself lends vocals). Latifah fares better on her flamenco-flavored reimagining of the Mamas & the Papas' "California Dreamin'."
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