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  • Muzik First

ARTIST OF THE MONTH: AMY WINEHOUSE

Amy Winehouse broke into the music business when, at age 16, a classmate passed on her demo tape to a record label. She signed her first record deal as a jazz vocalist, and her music later blossomed into an eclectic mix of jazz, pop, soul and R&B. Winehouse won five Grammy Awards connected to her 2006 album "Back to Black," and earned acclaim for songs like the title track, "Rehab" and "Love Is a Losing Game." Winehouse died tragically on July 23, 2011, at the age of 27 from accidental alcohol poisoning.


BACK TO BLACK (2006)

She looks like Polly Jean Harvey and sounds like Shirley Bassey, and her repertoire is comprised of songs with titles like “Fuck Me Pumps” and “In My Bed.” So it’s only fitting that Amy Winehouse’s rowdy public behavior would cause about as much of a stir in the UK tabloids as her music has among tastemakers. After her management tried to lure her into alcohol rehab, Winehouse penned “Rehab,” the lead single from her sophomore effort and U.S. debut "Back to Black," which trades the smooth jazz of her first album, "Frank," for a sub-genre that can only be described as what modern R&B might sound like if everything had evolved since the ‘60s…except music.


These songs wouldn’t sound out of place on the oldies station except the lyrics, of course: “What kind of fuckery is this?/You made me miss the Slick Rick gig,” Winehouse laments on “Me & Mr. Jones” (“Oooh, Slick Rick!” the faux girl-group back-up singers croon longingly). The effect is not unlike "The Miseducation Of Lauryn Hill," Winehouse’s balmy alto evokes the missing-in-action Fugee on tracks like the pulsing reggae groove “Just Friends.” But Winehouse and company (Salaam Remi, who produced both "Frank" and The Fugees’ The Score, and DJ Mark Ronson) aren’t just expert mood-setters or crafty reconstructionists. Winehouse is a student of the blues—she grew up listening to jazz greats as well as American hip-hop—and her ear for poetry is more than apparent on the title track as well as “Wake Up Alone”: “He is fierce in my dreams, seizing my guts…Soaked to his soul, he swims in my eyes by the bed…And I wake up alone.” All in all, when you listen to "Back To Black," you know exactly who Amy Winehouse is, even if you never met her. How many albums can you say that about?