by Dwain Lucktung
Spark up a joint, have a drink to this album, and you’ll feel as cool as a T-Bird picking up a Pink Lady at some ’60s greasy burger joint. Punch that jukebox and roll to the sultry voice of Amy Winehouse.
2007’s Best Female at the Brit Awards has returned with her second album, Back to Black. Produced by Mark Ronson and Salaam Remi, the album is a fine, mature and honest follow-up to her 2003 platinum debut, Frank.
Here are 11 tracks of unforgiving, jazzy soul, with a refreshing hint of R&B and gospel-like tunes that illustrate the fact that Winehouse is our modern-day Supreme.
“Rehab” and “You Know I’m no Good” made the UK Top 20 chart in 2006 with easy bass beats and irritatingly catchy harmonies and lyrics. Both are as witty and complex as Winehouse herself. With “Rehab,” the alleged crazy alcoholic sings of her refusal to attend an alcoholic rehabilitation centre, while “You Know I’m no Good” (which features rapper Ghostface Killah) depicts Winehouse’s views on the trials and tribulations of love. (The track will be the lead single as Back to Black is scheduled for release stateside this month.)
Love is a major theme on the album, and the shameless honesty with which Winehouse speaks of it is recognizable as Back to Black’s defining characteristic.
Other tracks such as “Love Is A Losing Game” and “Tears Dry On Their Own” evoke relationship trauma, as the London-born girl expresses in the latter song with her lethargic vocal power: “I should just be my own best friend/Not fuck myself in the head with stupid men.”
The heartbreak continues with the slow and sensitive “Wake Up Alone.” Nonetheless, with its mellow, soothing sound and Southern soul-like back-up singers, this track sets your mind at a pace reminiscent of couples swaying at the last dance of an old-school prom.
But it’s not all a sappy romantic mush of heart-on-sleeve songs. Winehouse is better than that, with her harsh references to sex and frank approach to addiction problems that leave no rest for the imagination. This Camden lass is no-holds-barred with the opening lines of the title track: “He left no time to regret/Kept his dick wet/With his same old safe bet,” all to a funky piano setting the rhythm and Winehouse’s ever languid voice lifting one into a natural high.
Be aware this album is for those willing to embrace a cool and sexy reformation of Mo-town grooves and pure soul. If that already goes over your head, you might prefer using this record as a frisbee this summer.
Winehouse offers nothing more on Back to Black than her jazz roots and soul inspiration culminated with unapologetic emotion, epitomized by the finger-clicking, bouncing feel of “Tears Dry On Their Own,” which closes with: “He takes the day but I’m grown/And in your way/My deep shade/My tears dry.” This troubled and talented girl is all grown up. If you like it, listen up. If not hush up, move on. I doubt Winehouse gives a fuck either way.