Amy Winehouse, the immensely talented singer with a dark past that was able to refine soul music and bring it to a mainstream audience. The use of her blissful voice, tainted storytelling, and ultimately a story of despair, produced one of the greatest soul records of all time.
Back to Black is the tale of Amy Winehouse’s unfortunate downfall and run-ins with depression, alcoholism, and an endless string of pain. While Back to Black has a primarily cheery sound, the end product when mixed with Winehouse’s ability to illustrate the short-comings within herself becomes a picture of light forming into the shadow. The “black” creeps in as the light fades out, the whole album is constantly met with this undying theme of duality within itself.
Back to Black begins with Winehouse’s hit song, “Rehab” which not only was one of the biggest songs off of the album, but the perfect example of how Winehouse struggled with her addiction and those around her wanted to help her with her habit. Back to Black as the title suggests is a constant downward motion. The perpetual spiral Winehouse describes through her music, leading up to her death in 2011 leaves a bitter taste in the listener’s mouth. Back to Black is such a masterpiece musically, but it has this great amount of baggage and dread attached to the tracks and what Winehouse speaks of.
The following track “You Know I’m No Good” has this great jazz style bass line and the drums behind both Winehouse and the gradual horn flare creates this relaxed feel. The musicians that Winehouse worked with on Back to Black did a perfect job of backing her vocals and to have them both stand out without overpowering each other could not have been done any better. Winehouse sings a great chorus “I cheated myself like I knew I would” and again, it gives off an uneasy feeling to the listener.
“Me & Mr. Jones” follows and this is the perfect example of what sounds like soulful, gospel music. The organ, the lively background vocals, and even the way Winehouse uses her booming voice to assert herself in the track was outstanding.
Then the song “Just Friends” has this interesting dreamy guitar beginning that slowly rises up into the use of off-beats on the percussion. Winehouse again does an outstanding vocal performance and that is one of the staples of Back to Black. With any other singer, this record would just simply not work. Winehouse does an incredible job with each delivery and she can make even the most hurtful lyrics sound like silk.
Finally, the track “Back to Black” comes into frame and it is easily one of the best tracks Winehouse has ever performed in her career. Everything about this song was executed so well, and the strings ensemble used these great chords that stick out so well and could make a substantial song by itself.
There is also the track “Wake Up Alone” which has this 1950’s teenage dance sense to it. The guitar moves freely through the fret-board making the whole track feel like as if it is moving in slow motion. Winehouse speaks again about “The dark covers me and I cannot run now.”
Amy Winehouse was a truly talented musician and Back to Black is her swan song of an album that touches into the depths of her struggle with depression, addiction, and ultimately death. Winehouse was able to create on of the most soulful albums of a generation, and will live on through her tracks that continue to rattle the Earth even to this day.