A Trip Down Amy Winehouse’s “BACK TO BLACK”

*This article was written on October 21, 2010.

The other morning on my way to school I wasn’t in the best mood. I couldn’t really describe the mood to anyone, therefore finding music to compliment it hasn’t been easy, especially now that I’m living life without an iPod again. So shoveling through a pile of “No”, “Heard it”, “Over it”, and “Not right now” all while dodging traffic on I-95 (And if you’ve been in PT Killer with me, then you’ve seen me do this). But then I stopped on Back to Black (2006) by Amy Winehouse. I said to myself, “It’s been a while, huh, Miss Amy?” and finally my heart said yes.

I refused to hear “Rehab” because of how annoying it was becoming. I finally felt it was okay to listen to again and I loved it. The lyrics are so strong. Ignore the, “No, no, no…” catch phrase and embrace the song for what it is. I can definitely identify with the “fuck you” in the line, “I ain’t got the time. and if my daddy thinks I’m fine”. Back in my “Crazy Amanda” days the only thing that I could give a shit about was my daddy. And if daddy said things were fine, then I didn’t care, I had the green light from daddy to behave however I wanted to.

The binge drinking out of fear of losing her relationship and watching it fall apart is so believable – I’ve done it. You can feel the pain, the uncertainty, her own anxieties. there’s a line in the song where she says, “It’s not just my pride, it’s just ’til these tears have dried,” and it punched me in the fucking face so hard. This woman  took the words right out of my mouth. Even if you can’t identify with Amy she will make you be her best friend who wants to listen to everything she has to say.

She gives you warning that she isn’t a good person. She’s destructive, and she’s in a relationship that’s beyond chemical. Although she puts up a strong front, inside she’s shattering. She expresses that she is conflicted, uneasy, and afraid to face what she’s feeling. Amy makes that very clear in “Wake up Alone”:

“I stay up and clean the house

at least I’m not drinking.

run around just so I don’t have to think about thinking.

That silent sense of content

that everyone gets

just disappears as soon as the sun sets…”

A few years back when I first heard this song it brought me to tears. All I could do was stare at the wall in front of me, catatonic, crying.

The compositions are amazing. You can certainly see the difference in the music between her Frank album and Back to Black. Somewhere between the turmoil of her life she found her sound. Basically it’s like this, the music is simple: nostalgic doo-wop melody with morbid lyrics and it puts me in an indescribable good feeling. It makes me think of back when women wore pencil skirts and bee-hives and they stood in front of this long microphone that had a giant honey comb look to it at the top. Behind her is the band while she pours her sad heart out. I guess you’d call it passion?

Amy sings like Etta James, Billie Holiday, Marilyn Monroe’s “I Want to be Loved by You” in Some like it Hot and I could see the Bettie Page’s, the Brando’s, Bardot’s, and Kim Novack’s listening from the audience. It’s everything that I believe my life should be like, I guess you’d call it class.

But I digress, the bottom line is that the music is raw. It’s just me, Amy, and the guys on the drums and trumpet. No synthesizers or enhancing, it’s just personal, all you hear is her voice. I honestly believe that Amy disregards coherent speech in interviews because she’s saving what she really wants to say for the mic.

The contrast of the light sounding doo-wop with such dark, cynical, honest, and uncensored words. Lines like, “What kind of fuckery are we? Now-a-days you don’t mean dick to me” makes me love her so much more. who says just because the music is simple means she can’t tell you to go fuck yourself? She’s just being honest. It’s so cynical that I have to believe Amy has a great sense of humor.

I have so much respect for Back to Black. It’s so blunt, yet every song paints moving pictures with so many layers. I’ve looked at all the details and she doesn’t want you to feel sorry for her. She’s just telling you that it is what it is. Amy knows that she’ll get over it, I got that feeling in “He Can Only Hold Her”.

By no means is Amy a victim. If I had to describe how I handle my own femininity, it’s vicariously through Back to Black. There’s ten songs with one bonus remix of “You Know I’m no Good” and I never have to use the skip button, I don’t need to. Five stars.

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