Back to Black
Inundated with powerfully voiced, female artists, the British music industry in 2006 was an era dominated by Déjà vu lyrics, Aguilera’s comeback album, Back to Basics, and not to forget, Girls Aloud were still on top. With that said, it was surprising that a young woman from North London would come on the scene, so breathtakingly, that the world was oblivious to the fact that the music playing over the airwaves was, in fact, from her second album.
Evidently steered down a path to an enamouring music genre, music lovers have engrossed themselves in a music style that has grown ever since Amy Winehouse gave us her second album Back to Black, a compelling, eclectic mix of relationships, pain, and individuality. Produced by Salaam Remi and Mark Ronson, Back to Black is an autobiography by a woman learning the ramifications of drugs, sex, and heart break. It unravels the way in which she deals with pain, how she values love, the only difference, however, is that it’s bound in lyrics and written with ink drawn from a churned pot of Soul and R&B.
The first single released from the album was Rehab, a foreshadowing set of lyrics that came back to haunt Amy. Her defying words “No, no, no” are part of the chorus that makes this first track eye-opening. Winehouse’s fearless response to her parents’ advice of going to rehab is met with shear arrogance for she “Ain’t got the time” and obviously, she’d “rather be at home with Ray,” which later became “Blake,” her bad romance that sent her off the edge. An interesting preview, the song was successful, but once the catchiness wore off the album offered another ten tracks that really caught our attention.
Songs like You Know I’m No Good, Love is a Losing Game, and >Tears Dry on their Own are the ones that can be taken more seriously, more sentiment applied, as throughout these three songs Winehouse delivered a tasteful passion that showed the world her brilliance as a songwriter. The second single You Know I’m No Good told listeners “I was trouble,” “I cried for you on the kitchen floor,” piercing images that are buttressed with references to her lifestyle in the lyrics “Tanqueray” and “Stella.” Contrastingly, “Tears Dry on their Own” gives us a bite of an intelligent Amy, a woman who asked herself “why do I stress the man?” and “I don’t know why I got so attached.” We clap our hands as we listen as Winehouse realised the “inevitable withdrawal” of a painful relationship, and she held her head up high letting her “tears dry” as she, like many people in life, didn’t see the good side of love, which is clear in her opinionated but agreeable song Love is a Losing Game. The album’s title song Back to Black, is arguably the soundtrack to Winehouse’s deteriorating life. Black, obviously, is a morbid, dangerous shade, which is what the lyrics in the song point out. “We only said goodbye with words, I died a hundred times” are words sang by a love-bruised Winehouse who felt her solution was to return to a dark place where “life is like a pipe” and ultimately, where life wasn’t possible to maintain. Winehouse gave the masses deep words on a plate, poetic words, which grasped the attention of everyone, for she, like nobody before, wrote so eloquently from a pierced heart that we, as fans, wanted to fix all her problems.
A protégé of nobody, Winehouse gave music a different edge. Even the album cover draws a wondering eye to a confident, but innocent, Amy trying to put the pieces together of a scathed relationship, a time of her life from which she so brilliantly plucked 11 songs. After all, no one can forget that her image (remember “swagger” wasn’t mainstream five years ago) was at the vanguard of showbiz media, and everyone sat back and watched teenage girls use more mascara than ever before, and prop their hair up higher, because Winehouse portrayed her lifestyle through her own stereotype, a tattoo-showing, ruthless, and down-to-earth stereotype that we all, at the time, adored.
In the aftermath of her death, fans must ask themselves what it was that made them fans in the first place. Was it simply Amy Winehouse? Was it her music? The honest answer is both. The press wanted a piece of her, and rightly so, her tumultuous life warranted high readership for day after day she was in the public eye, albeit, for the wrong reasons. However, it was her controversial lifestyle that yielded her second album; her defiance over going to rehab; her loving heart that drew the wrong types of men; her addiction to drugs; Winehouse translated her turmoil into bold lyrics, Marvin Gaye backing music, and five wins at the Grammys, she had a talent for injecting life into music, which can only mean that yes, indeed, it is both her music and herself that kept us listening, and will keep us listening, as we all know, deep down, she has left us with a legacy.
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