Amy Winehouse – Back to Black — music review
Posted on April 11, 2007 by Kris Nelson
In Britain, there’s no escaping Amy Winehouse, the saucy crooner with the nouveau-retro backdrop. She’s finally being welcomed to the States with open arms with her album Back to Black debuting at #7.
Raised by jazz musicians and inspired by Salt-n-Pepa, Winehouse is sultry oldschool kitch with a hardened criminal-esque edge. To give you a clue as to how she sounds, she has been asked to sing the main theme of the upcoming Bond film (Bond 22). All the unrequited love drama and orchestrated jazz-n-soul swoons and sax toots of girl band ballads from the 1950s cannot disguise the strength of Winehouse’s whine, infused with a sass that almost seems ironic.
On initial spins, ‘You Know I’m No Good’, ‘Rehab’, and the title track stand out as the best of the album by far, although the others, some dripping with blatant almost rip-off riffs, sweeten with repeat listenings, even prompting humming in the office break-room. ‘Me & Mr. Jones’ even has the wishy-washy back-up singers popular back in the day, except spiced up with lyrics like “what kind of fuckery is this”. ‘Just Friends’ is a creative mishmash of reggae beats and smooth jazz vocals. ‘Tears Dry on Their Own’ smacks of Carole King’s ‘It’s Too Late’. The hidden track features Ghostface Killah disjointedly popping in on ‘You Know I’m No Good’.
Winehouse’s middle name is Jade, and she looks more like that exotic tag than blah “Amy”. In fact, she kinda looks like Janice from TV’s Friends, toothy grin and high hair included, except she rocks jacked up Steve-O cartoonish tattoos and heavy-handed Cleopatra eyeliner. But it’s not all just a façade. Kicked out of the Sylvia Young Theatre School at age 13 for being a lazy student and for piercing her own nose, Winehouse shares a academic career with fellow British rebel Lady Sovereign, who was expelled at age 16. Baaad girls.
Her last name is appropriate, since she’s known for her brash soused rants, even going so far as to heckle U2′s Bono and punch her own fans. During an interview, Winehouse admitted, “I have a really good time some nights, but then I push it over the edge and ruin my boyfriend’s night. I’m an ugly dickhead drunk, I really am.” Sweet girl, really.
And if you’re not convinced that she has first-hand knowledge of the female strife Back to Black is about, just be aware that when she was battling a poor self image with anorexia and bulemia she made Nicole Richie look fat.
I first heard her a capella live and actually think she benefits without all the frills, although the upbeat ambiance distracts from her simplistic yet sorrowful lyrics. While her voice isn’t exactly smooth and pretty, it’s how well she uses that sinusy shrillbox to her advantage, encouraging listeners to join in. It won’t be long before you’re singing along, shaking the sassy out, loosening up your larynx and belting out “‘cos you’re my fella my guy… hand me your Stella and fly… by the time I’m out the door… you tear men down like Roger Moore.”