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
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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