The British press seemingly needs to create a flavor of the month and make each band/artist as huge as they can as fast as they can. With Lily Allen’s success hitting this side of the Atlantic, they’ve shown an ability to expose divas du jour, but whereas most of these artists will be nary remembered in a period of two years, tops, Amy Winehouse stands out above the rest. Sure, her public reputation has been marred by the rabid English tabloids, but her music speaks for itself.
At only 23 years of age Winehouse looks and sings with a set of pipes skilled beyond her years. Basically, her singing style is husky and brass rendering her as one bad ass bitch with a potty mouth and diction of a New Jersey hussy. She’s well schooled in the jazz, R&B, and soul pop from generation’s way before her time. She’s not so much a throwback but rather manages to stay true to her roots with music that remains forward thinking, a feat well pulled off thanks in part to the cachet-tinged production of Mark Ronson and Salaam Remi.
Winehouse’s voice evokes the mien of love gone bad and self-destruction. It’s nice to see a female singer in her early 20’s who truly knows how to be creative with influences such as Winehouse’s. Take a look at Winehouse’s American counterparts who are her age. Joss Stone has her heart in the right place but is too adult contemporary, whereas Christina Aguilera’s artistic inner self was overshadowed by radio friendly overproduction and her disposition as a “dirrty,” skin-baring bit of eye candy.
“Rehab” is a tough as nails homage to Winehouse’s defiance from her management to seek help for her boozing, while “You Know I’m No Good” is a sweet and sour gem. The tropical sashay of “Me and Mr. Jones” just may make the Cockney lingo catch on stateside, beginning with the word “fuckery”.
“Just Friends” is a dub-laced bossa nova moment of cool jive and the girl group veil is given noir brush strokes with an eerie chamber pop primer on the title track. Sunshine AM pop is given props on “Tears Dry on Their Own” while the closer “He Can Only Hold Her” is the standout number with it’s Morricone-meets-Bacharach tone of chic film score pop.
Winehouse is like a lost lovelorn girl vulnerable to bad treatment, but will strike like a crocodile chomping a wildebeest when crossed. I’d hate to be the man caught two-timing her. Back to Black is as much Winehouse’s album as it is Ronson’s and Remi’s. Her voice, added to their post modern knack for the old Motown and Stax jaunts are what make this a three pronged effort.
Billie Holiday – Lady In Satin
Nina Simone – Little Girl Blue
Peggy Lee – Black Coffee