Amy Winehouse Back to Black Review

March 18, 2010


Proving that it takes more than a bubble perm and smeared red lipstick to recreate the classic soul of Etta James and Millie Jackson, Amy Winehouse fills in the generation gap between the girl groups of the sixties and the inebriated raunch of the ‘Naughty Naughties’ with such aplomb, that Christina Aguilera need not only go back to basics, she needs to get back into her chaps and leave the soul to the real artists she so desperately wants to be.

Back to Black is bursting with do-wop beats, brazen brass and lyrics that drip from her 22 year old mouth like tumblers of whisky fueled wisdom. Gloriously unapologetic and pity free, its Amy’s party and rather than clean up and redeem, she getting wasted and writing about it instead. If the fusty warbling of Norah Jones or Joss Stone is your cup of tea, then you may as well hit the (middle of the) road now, but if you’re a ‘glass half empty’ (so lets refill it) kind of guy, then pull up a stool. This is the album where every track knows your name.

From the albums highlight and opener “Rehab” to its closer “Addicted”, Back to Black is a catalyst for Amy to not only chastise the men who’ve done her wrong, but highlight her own stupidity for letting them.

And chastise she does with all the foul-mouthed bitterness of youth “What kind of fuckery are we, nowadays you don’t mean dick to me” (Me & Mr. Jones) and a melancholic accountability that shames the scale defying hissy fits thrown by her contemporaries. “It’s my responsibility, you don’t owe anything to me” she shrugs on “Tears Dry On Their Own”.

She sets herself apart from her rivals with her cutting barbs and gut wrenching honesty. One can’t imagine Katie Mellua spitting “He left no time to regret, kept his dick wet, with his same old safe bet”(Back to Black) and if Nora Jones were to develop the self-deprecating tone that Winehouse adopts in “You Know I’m No Good” (“Upstairs in bed, with my ex boy, he’s in the place, but I can’t get joy, thinking of you in the final throes, this is when my buzzer goes “) the sight of mothers falling face first into their petrol shop flowers would be all the more regular on Mothers Day.

An album essentially about fucking and fucking up, Winehouse has channeled the demons of youth through the lungs of a modern-day Sarah Vaughan. Her smoky drawl growls pure emotion be she on the attack or retreating to lick her wounds (as on the glorious “Love is a Losing Game”).

Though her album starts to swagger and sway just before closing time, Amy is in no danger of losing her license to kill as with THAT voice and THOSE lyrics neither the contenders for her throne (Lilly Allen, Jamie T) or her contemporaries from the new jazz revival of 2004, can match the pace of this booze drenched oeuvre.

5/5

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