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It’s hard to believe that this record-breaking album was sitting high at the top of the charts five years ago. ‘Back To Black’ is still relevant in today’s music society as it was back in 2007, if not more. She paved the way for credible artists such as Duffy, Adele and Rebecca Ferguson to take to the stage and share their stories.
Music critics had described Amy Winehouse’s début ‘Frank’ as a “fresh of breath air” but it wasn’t until she released Rehab that Amy had the commercial success that she may not have wanted. People remember significant events in their life: the shooting of JFK, where they were when they heard Geri had left the Spice Girls… I remember the first time I heard Rehab, it was in my GCSE Drama class and someone had the song playing through their phone. I was hooked.
Compared to Adele’s 21, Rehab explores the much darker side of a break up. In complete contrast to Adele who is going to search for someone else, Amy had no intentions of doing this. She was utterly devastated that she turned to drink and some say that’s where it all started to go wrong for her. Disagreeing with those who were looking out for her “They tried to make be go to rehab, I said No, No, No” and “There’s nothing you can teach me, that I can’t learn from Mr Hathaway” could be interpreted as Amy’s clever admission to learning from William Shakespeare (married to Anne Hathaway) or more likely, her love for American soul-singer, Donny Hathaway.
Some may argue that the Mark Ronson produced track became Amy’s signature song due to her turbulent and explosive lifestyle, her battle with drink and drugs and her addiction to on/off boyfriend, and eventual husband, Blake Fielder-Civil. Headlines aside, and ‘witty’ comments suggesting she should have said “Yes, yes, yes”. The opening track of this remarkable album won three Grammy’s. Three Grammy’s in one night. No headlines can influence music as comfortable to the ears as this.
The album continues with a heart-broken Amy who admits to infidelity in You Know I’m No Good where she explains “I cheated myself, like I knew I would, I told you, I was trouble, you know that I’m no good” because she was “Upstairs in bed with my ex boy”. The British public aren’t a fan of cheaters, see Ashley Cole, Tiger Woods or Ryan Giggs but Amy’s tone of voice and unique style make us feel sorry for her as she desperately sings “I cried for you on the kitchen floor”.
Early footage of a young pre-record deal Amy in the back of a black cab in London shows that she was a real lover of music. She wasn’t in the music industry as a sort of ‘Oh, this looks fun, let’s see what happens’, her eyes light up when asked if she wants to be a singer. It is for that reason that Amy took on a classic song and as Simon Cowell would say she “made it her own”. Amy encapsulates the reader in a female perspective of the classic, taking a different spin with Me & Mr Jones.
The title track of the album is the most spine tingling of them all. Laying herself bare, Amy tells how she “tread a trouble track, my odds are stacked”, she’s lost her man and she needs to accept it but she can’t, she’s going to have to go “Back to Black”. The middle-8 of the song, however, provides a faster tone and you get the sense that Amy has accepted it, she doesn’t like it, she hates, but she’s packed her bags and she’s going to move on with her life which leads in to the sultry Love Is A Losing Game.
If there was a song title that Amy recorded that defines her life, it shouldn’t be Rehab, it should be Love Is A Losing Game. She had 2 ex-boyfriends who she cared enough about to write albums for them and then she married Blake and unfortunately we all are too aware what a troubled relationship that was. And when, just as Amy found love again she was sadly taken from us. Some say at her happiest it just seems too tragic that someone with so much too give was “just a flame” for someone.
Finally accepting the break-up, it seems that the album begins with complete devastation but as it progresses Amy understands that her life is not over as she admits in Tears Dry On Their Own and in Wake Up Alone that “The Dark covers me and I cannot run out” and “I stand before him, it’s all I can do to show him”. She dreams about her “ex boy” and in her most ballady song from the album, everyone agrees that a break-up really is a big kick in the balls. Nobody wants to wake up alone.
What sadly was the last album from Amy Winehouse to be released during her lifetime, it was the best. It was a tale of a woman with real experience of the dark side of love. It was the soul and jazz version of Rihanna’s We Found Love. The production of the album was 1960′s, it was released in the 21st Century but will be listened to and appreciated for a lifetime to come.