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Amy Winehouse
Back To Black
Reprise Records

In a preface to this critique, I must say that I was a little apprehensive about writing on London native Amy Winehouse and her new record, Back To Black. Terrified to say anything negative about the album, in fear of the sometimes surly and aggressive Ms. Winehouse hunting me down in the middle of the night and forcing me to eat my words. Thankfully (for me), the modern day saloon singer has made an album that it is hard to find fault with.

The success of the album stems from Amy's deep and sultry tone. While the majority of female singers nowadays concern themselves with stretching their range and filling their songs with runs and high notes, Winehouse looks to explore the darker area of her voice, focusing on her finely crafted lower range that reverberates throughout the album. While some singers try to imitate the classic females that defined the Motown generation, Amy instead chooses to join the classic sound with a modern twist, coming off as completely unpretentious and as genuine as someone can be. The record is truly something that hasn't been seen in the music world recently; Imagine Motown standards being sung in a dark, seedy bar, with the talent drunk off of whiskey and reeking of cigarettes, and you have Back To Black. "Me & Mr. Jones" transports Amy directly into this era of classic female soul while following the standard classic song structure and combining it with Amy's somewhat brash lyrics: "What kind of fuckery are we? / Nowadays you don't mean dick to me."

The variation on the album is also quite astounding. In what could wear very thinly as an artificial genre-dress up game, Winehouse stays genuine and varied enough to allow it to stay fresh. Whether you're listening to the seductive and unapologetic "You Know I'm No Good" or the poppy "Tears Dry On Their Own" (which expertly samples the classic "Ain't No Mountain High Enough") it is evident that Amy Winehouse has signed her name alongside KT Tunstall, Regina Spektor and Joss Stone as a part of the next female singer-songwriter wave that is beginning to sweep across the musical universe.

Of course, there is much to say about the very well-trained and sculpted vocalists in today's pop world, but repetition and a lack of individuality has become their biggest fear. Amy Winehouse shouldn't lose any sleep over it though, considering that Back To Black is the type of record that only she could make. Stylized for her voice and hers alone, songs like the slow-tempo "Wake Up Alone" and the genius first single, "Rehab" would falter and be wasted on the likes of a more pristine and clean-cut vocalist. A voice as raw and unique as this hasn't been heard in a long time and with an attitude as fiery as Amy Winehouse's, there is little, aside from her own problems, keeping her from taking the spotlight away from those less deserving. And be careful, once she sinks her nails in, it will be impossible to get them out.

-Josh Page

Track Listing:
1. Rehab
2. You Know I'm No Good
3. Me & Mr. Jones
4. Just Friends
5. Back To Black
6. Love Is A Losing Game
7. Tears Dry On Their Own
8. Wake Up Alone
9. Some Unholy War
10. He Can Only Hold Her

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