Remember That Time Aretha Franklin Defined the Essence of Shade in Four Words About Taylor Swift?

Aretha Franklin was a towering figure in the history of American music, and upon her death this week at age 76 her artistic skills should rightly take up the bulk of the space in her stacks of glowing obituaries. But we’d like to take a brief amount of time today to spotlight one of Franklin’s other, less-notable skills. Namely, the grace and facility with which she was able to insult other musicians. There was the time she tore down Dionne Warwick with a single fax, and then there was that time in 2014 when she was able to masterfully slide a rhetorical knife between Taylor Swift’s ribs and twist it, just so. Pressed by the Wall Street Journal to give a lightning round of opinions on her successors, Franklin called Adele and Alicia Keys various iterations of “good” and “young.” And how about Swift? A straight-faced Franklin could only muster these words: “Great gowns, beautiful gowns.” Still, at least that’s better than what Nicki Minaj got, as the legend offered a devastating “no comment” on the rapper. And thus, millions of people who weren’t quite sure what “shade” was helpfully had it defined for them. A true legend.

Remember That Time Aretha Franklin Shaded Taylor Swift?