Monday, July 23, 2012

Music Monday: Looking back at Amy Winehouse/Back To Black

It’s been a year since Amy Winehouse left the world so suddenly. While she appeared to get her life back together, she succumbed to old demons and passed at the age of 27 (joining the infamous celebrity ‘27 club’).
            Winehouse left the world with a soulful, heartfelt repertoire that paved the way for fellow British acts to international stardom, including Duffy, Leona Lewis, and the biggest British act of this generation, Adele.  
            The short time Winehouse spent in the music industry is remarkable, considering she only released two albums, but contributed with so many other notable acts (including Tony Bennett, winning a posthumous Grammy this year for her duet with him).

            Her first album, Frank, made a droplet of a splash in the states, but then along came Back to Black, and nothing was the same.
            The album’s first single, “Rehab,” was a power anthem for Winehouse, who started dealing publicly with her drug and alcohol issues and addressed them head on saying she would never go there. The single shot Winehouse to instant fame in the states, garnering six Grammy nominations and winning five. She won best new artist, female pop vocal performance, song and record of the year for “Rehab,” and pop vocal album album for Back to Black. The only Grammy she lost that night was album of the year.
Winning five of six Grammys tied the then record for most wins by a female in one night. She would have broke the record with the AoTY win, and would have become only the second artist in Grammy history to win all four general field awards. Nevertheless, it was an unbelievable showing for her first try at Grammy gold.
What Winehouse did with Back to Black was pay homage to the old school days of R&B. Her deep, smoky voice accentuated the piano chords and bass that reached deep in her soul to exude something so real, so pure. While the musical arrangements were directly inspired by the shadows of Motown, her lyrics showed that her life was anything but fine.
As previously mentioned, “Rehab” was the one that started it all. Then she rolled out a few more singles that didn’t quite stick like “Rehab,” but are all great and iconic in their own way.
“You Know That I’m No Good” is a sultry track that sounds like something you would hear in a real cool lounge at any big city restaurant. The trumpets, percussion and Winehouse’s unbelievable vocals make this one of the album’s staple tracks. The lyrics about infidelity and hurt remind you this isn’t your traditional album.
One of the best tracks on the album is “Tears Dry On Their Own.” Sampling the ‘60s staple “Ain’t No Mountain High Enough,” Winehouse’s lyrics are almost the direct opposite from what that song’s lyrics were. This track is R&B/pop with some of the sharpest lyrics I’ve heard in the genre.
All I can ever be to you
Is a darkness that we know
And this regret I got accustomed to
From the moment I heard this song it was love at first listen. It’s energetic, soulful, full of life, and one of the most upbeat “breakup” songs in any genre. Nothing against Adele’s revengeful “Rolling In The Deep,” but this song is more empowering to the listener without being hurtful. 

            The album’s title track is one that is truly unforgettable. Definitely the saddest in lyric and music, it really captures what it feels like to be cheated and forgotten about when a relationship ends. Surely, we all know what it feels like to go back to black.
We only said goodbye with words
I died a hundred times
You go back to her
And I go back to.....
            It’s so unfortunate that Winehouse died at so young an age. It would have been great to see where she would take us on her musical career. She brought a resurgence in standard R&B, but with the edgy, raw and real that only she could bring.

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