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.
It is rare for such a young performer to debut with such assurance, confidence, and to such instant acclaim, but North London sensation Amy Winehouse already has a reputation that many far more seasoned artists would swap their gold discs for. Winehouse combines a distinctive '20 a day voice with a serious appreciation of female jazz & soul heroes (Sarah Vaughan's scatting style seeps through Amy's vocal ad-libs as well as getting a name check). She combines considerable jazz guitar ability with a classic approach that produces
contemporary, quirky, up-front, tongue cheek and risqué lyrics. Her version of the eternally hip jazz track "Moody's Mood For Love" which rides over a dub reggae rhythm demonstrates this attitude it looks back to know where it's going and although in print this idea might raise a musical eyebrow, in reality, it sounds like a perfect partnership.
The first single "Stronger Than Me" contains all of these qualities and proves that the jazz-influenced contemporary souls need to be safe or sullied by the dinner or 'smooth' prefixes. Lyrically fresh and uncompromising, the only occasional weaknesses across the collection are the sometimes obtrusive programmed beats but recent radio & television appearances confirm that Winehouse live has a wonderfully organic sound that supports her approach well.
Amy's influences (Vaughan, Dinah Washington, and the more contemporary like Badu et al) are obvious but not overpowering and Winehouse has enough attitude, talent, and chutzpah to make any comparisons fleeting and pointless. In fact in the delicious, lush, and soulful "Put It In The Box" she out Badu's Erykah brilliantly uses a similar female perspective on broken relationships to get her point across very directly.This was Amy's first release and indicated well for her future. If this was what the young lady was capable of at such an early stage it was pretty certain that this was the first in a long line of well-crafted, funky & feisty releases.