13 March 2008

Amy Winehouse - "Back to Black"

Back to Black
Amy Winehouse
Release date: 13 March 2007
CD list price: $13.98

Much has been made of Amy Winehouse in the last year or so in the United States, and as her star has risen, attention has shifted from her music to her life.  A stint in rehab; her mother publicly worrying over her after seeing recent pictures published; is she or isn’t she going to jail on perjury charges?  Unlike Britney Spears’s recent meltdown or the trials and tribulations of Paris Hilton, Winehouse has made the transition from entertainer to tabloid fodder so quickly that it is difficult to recall a time when she was simply a recording artist.  It is therefore fitting that her Back to Black album opens with "Rehab," a song that seems to have been written in anticipation of how her public image would transform.

Once that’s out of the way, the rest of the album seems free to be what it is: an enjoyable, if not necessarily remarkable, album.  Her vocals are not overwhelming, but they are confident and perfectly suited to her material.  She knows when to emphasize a line and when to let the words shine through.  The arrangements seamlessly drift between jazz and R&B, while the choruses tend to nod their heads to the pop world.  This is not an album for an intimate night for two, and yet it may not be powerful enough for a party.  Could it be shared?  Absolutely, though this might best be heard alone.  Back to Black isn’t jingo-istic enough for a drive home from work, but it might be perfect to play at home once you get there and need to unwind from a stressful day.

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