Wednesday, June 11, 2014

The Great Albums: Back to Black by Amy Winehouse

Yeah, that's right!  Sure, Amy Winehouse may have been a hot mess, a fucking train wreck even, but damn could that girl ever belt out a tune.  With a warbly, bluesy contralto voice that is part Etta James, part Nico, part Ronnie Spector, and part Billie Holiday, all folded into the singer's strangely unique melange of old school rhythm & blues, mournful soul, and something that can best be described as an Orphic creature akin to a 1930's torch singer with a troubled soul and badass attitude that betrays her modern cultural decadence, Winehouse was one hell of a talent, a talent that is often overlooked in rubbernecking favour of her over-publicized tabloid life, meteoric rise and fall, mental problems, drug and alcohol abuse, and ultimate death at that ever so recurring tender rock and roll world age of 27.  A new age soul siren, Winehouse can (and should) be described as a disheveled, spiraling chanteuse who's second album gave the auspicious aural appearance of straddling several stylistic generations simultaneously, from her beloved early jazzy influences and love of Frank Sinatra, to whom she dedicated her first, more straightly jazz album, to her vocal (and fashion) obsession with such 1960's girl groups as The Ronettes, to the sexualized substance (abuse) of modern day hip-hop.  A musical tour de force, if one were so inclined to use such a term - and such a tour de force that makes the singer/songwriter's early-to-the-grave demise, strange and possibly as thoughtless as it may sound, an even more tragic a loss for the music and music-loving world.

Back to Black, Winehouse's final studio album before her death (one posthumous compilation album was released by Island Records in 2011) starts out with the smash single, "Rehab." A rather appropriate song, obviously written by Winehouse in response to most people in her life wishing her into rehab, and an especially ironic song, considering how the singer-songwriter died. But what a song. A hell of a song in fact. A rompish, rocking tune with a powerful R&B reach around. Yeah, that's right. Meanwhile, the second track, "You Know I'm No Good," which also became the second single, is a sexy, dangerous song, which is made even more dangerous when it was remixed with Wu-Tanger Ghostface Killah. But things don't end there, baby! The album keeps going with delicious sounding track after delicious sounding track - all written by Winehouse herself. From the jazzy "Me & Mr. Jones" to the sadly sweet pop sensibilities of "Love is a Losing Game" to the melodic, melancholy cadence of "Wake Up Alone" to the funky hotness of "Tears Dry on Their Own," a track backed with samplings of Marvin Gaye and Tammi Terrell's "Ain't No Mountain High Enough," Winehouse, with the help of producers Mark Ronson and Salaam Remi, gave the music world a vivid, deeply emotional, and brilliantly sung (seriously, that hot mess trainwreck of a girl could sing!) album. Easily one of the best albums of this still relatively young new century, nay millennium. The girl may be gone (what a fucking waste!!), and she may not be what one would call a good role model for young girls (but then, why should a musician be expected to be such a thing anyway!?), but the music drives forward with a pounding provocative prowess, and because of that, it lives on and on and on. Thank Crom for that. That's it gang. See ya 'round the web.


5 comments:

  1. It is so sad that she died before one could have more of her great voice. I have only heard a couple of her songs but it left me wanting more. She is unique and more true than so many of these famous gals who all sound like they just came from American idol (don't so many sound the same??) Very much missed

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  2. Yeah, the girl gets a bad rap, and is often lumped in with the silly pop music of today, but damn could she belt out a tune.

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  3. Maybe it's just me and my punk sensibilities, but I think the bitch is, was, smoking hot. Even in her worst un-rehabbed days, where she may have seemed hideous to most, I found her so fucking hot. Of course, that smokin' hot voice helps out too.

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  4. I should have known I could count on your Rufus to keep it classy.

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  5. First - Rufus, you're a pig. Second - Amy Winehouse had an incredible voice. You are so right about her "belting out" her songs. And yes, she is quite underrated. Third - Rufus, you're a pig.

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