Amy Winehouse, Back To Black
'60s soul with modern R&B and eyebrow-raising lyrics
Amy Winehouse's breakthrough LP Back to Black is often overshadowed by its most famous line: "They tried to make me go to rehab, I said, 'No, no, no.'" Amid the British singer's infamous struggles with substance abuse and ongoing relationship drama, it's easy to forget that she put out one of the best records of the last decade. With Mark Ronson's help on the production end, Back to Black married '60s soul with inflections of modern R&B, fronted by Winehouse's throaty contralto rasp. "Tears Dry On Their Own" uses a sample interpolation of "Ain't No Mountain High Enough," while "Me and Mr. Jones" features doo-wop-style backup singers. And several of the tracks are backed by the horn section of Brooklyn-based funk and soul traditionalists the Dap-Kings, who record their music like they are in the '60s, using analog equipment.
Much of Back to Black could've be mistaken for songs made decades ago, but it's the lyrics that bring it back to the 21st century — eyebrow-raising lines like, "What kind of fuckery is this?/ You made me miss the Slick Rick gig" and "Tell your boyfriend, next time he around/ To buy his own weed and don't wear my shit down." Some of Winehouse's woes are about normal, seemingly-innocent heartbreak ("Love Is A Losing Game," "He Can Only Hold Her"), but there are at least as many instances when she admits that things are better when she's not drinking, and booze is the root of her problems. As much as her personal life can be a distraction from her music, her willingness to share it all is as crucial to Back to Black as the music itself.