In an industry where many R&B heartbreak records sound very high school, Amy Winehouse brings mature experience of a broken heart to listeners on her latest album, Back to Black.
Released almost exactly three years after her well-received debut album, Frank, Back to Black brings a more modern feel to Winehouse’s signature old school blues sound. Somewhat straying away from the sounds of raw jazz that defined her first album, Winehouse channels sounds from ’60s girl groups, such as the Supremes, which fit her almost sensual, rough voice.
On the opening track, “Rehab,” the chorus says “They tried to make me go to rehab/I said no, no, no.” Ironically, this song was released as a single soon after tabloids attacked the singer for her alleged alcohol problem, accompanied with photos of her extreme weight loss. Winehouse defiantly states that her Ray Charles records serve as better medicine than anything they could give her in rehab.
The song is a strong way to open the album, with blazing horns and strings, which gives the track a modern Motown feel. The song could easily be a Supremes’ song, with vocals identical to that of Etta James.
On the second track, “You Know I’m No Good,” the lyrics are far from contrite as Winehouse sings about being unfaithful. This track is one reason the album is more grown-up than most; Winehouse writes direct and honest lyrics about only being able to think of her boyfriend “in the final throws,” among other things.
Listeners get a peek at Winehouse’s witty side on the third track, “Me and Mr. Jones.” While the song sounds like an old Etta James track, Winehouse keeps it modern with her tastefully vulgar language.
The title track is a song of heartbreak, with Winehouse soulfully singing “You go back to her/And I go back to black.” The singer was in a state of “black” as well on her first track, which is one reason she was told to go to rehab. The album takes a turn on “Tears Dry On Their Own,” where the lyrics are still sorrowful, but the music makes the song a feel-good heartbreak song; something that is scarce among the music released today.
The self-righteous closing track, “Addicted,” talks about filling the void of a lover with a substance instead. It is a great way to close the album, lyrically, although the music is somewhat weak.
While some may speculate about the press coverage Winehouse received prior to the release of her album, she is by far no product. Her lyrics are deep and meaningful, coming from experience and her voice is spectacular and beyond her years. Back to Black will not serve as a guilty pleasure or brain junk food, but as an album for those who want to hear real soul music.