Saturday, 23 July 2011

Back to Black

I'm sure the bookmakers at William Hill are expecting a tough few days ahead, as the morbid gamblers who predicted an early departure for Amy Winehouse show up to collect their winnings. And yet, despite the grim inevitability of her decline, there was something truly shocking about reading the news this evening that we'd lost one of our most promising and troubled music stars. Her own parents predicted it would end this way, and yet that doesn't make it any more acceptable.

Sadly, despite the inarguable quality of her minimal yet memorable ouvre, Amy's notoriety was based on her defiant drug and alcohol abuse, rather than her remarkable voice or songwriting talent. It's easy to say that we've lost one of the most amazing musicians of our generation, but the timeless quality of her voice, and her obvious love of sixties soul, suggest that she actually belonged to another generation entirely.

Like many people, I came to her music late in the day. Her debut album pretty much passed me by, with the exception of the breezily jaded 'Fuck Me Pumps' - it took Black to Black to really win me over. Mark Ronson's gutsy and authentic recreation of the sound of Atlantic soul perfectly complemented Amy's earthily blunt vocals, and together they created magic. Even back in 2006, the lead single 'Rehab' articulated, with unflinching honesty, Amy's issues with alcohol abuse, and her unwillingness to resolve them. As she started notching up the platinum sales and industry awards, the song took on a life of its own - a giant 'fuck you' to the people who worried that she was going off the rails.

With her career in the ascendent, her health seemed to be heading in the opposite direction as her toxically codependent relationship with Blake Fielder-Civil went from strength to Export Strength. At one point her knight in rusted armour even boasted openly to the tabloids that he'd introduced her to heroin and crack, the way a regular person might proudly present the Mrs to their new boss.

For the last four years, the fans waited patiently in hope that Amy would get herself clean long enough to produce the long awaited third album. Having already sidestepped the standard issues associated with the difficult second album by delivering an impeccable sophomore release, all bets were off in terms of part 3. And now I guess we'll never get to hear it.

No doubt Amy's record label will be quick to open the vault and release whatever demos and incomplete recordings they can get their hands on. Perhaps sensing that Amy's flame would burn out quickly, they had already re-released her earlier albums in deluxe editions to wring as much revenue as possible from a catalogue as thin as its creator.

She's now joined a depressing list of awesome talents who blinded audiences with a talent that burned bright, only for it to be extinguished before their 28th year came around. She told us "You know I'm no good", but the world begged to differ.

No comments:

Post a Comment