After all, Amy was a singer who burst on the scene in 2007 and created an immediate buzz with “Rehab,” a song that would later go on to win the Grammy Award for Record of the Year (she won four other awards that year as well).
That song seemed to tell you everything you needed to know about Amy, a troubled performer who had problems with drugs, drinking, and the law: “They tried to make me go to rehab,” she sang, “and I said ‘No, no, no.'”
Ultimately, that’s what derailed her career and ended her life as well.
But while Amy was best known (and often mocked) for that song, she was much more than a one-hit wonder. Today, the second anniversary of her passing, is as good an occasion as any to celebrate her awesome music once again.
A jazzy throwback
Less well known in the U.S., Frank featured Amy as a jazzy throwback, kind of like a modern-day neo-soul Billie Holiday. The album provided early indications that this was a woman with attitude and confidence, one whose weakness was loving men a little too deeply — a fault that often got her into trouble. The theme revealed itself on tracks like “Fuck Me Pumps,” “Stronger Than Me,” “Cherry,” and “I Heard Love Is Blind.”
Motown soul and hip hop
Back to Black was a significant artistic step forward from Frank. With the help of producer Mark Ronson, Amy channeled her heartbreak and pain into songs with hooks and melodies that were anything but painful. On tracks like “Rehab,” “Me and Mr. Jones,” “Tears Dry on Their Own,” “Wake Up Alone,” and the title track, Amy and her producer perfected a blend of Motown soul and hip hop, creating a sound that was a cross between Lauryn Hill and Ronnie Spector (complete with beehive hairdo, natch).
There’s attitude — so much attitude — and self-confidence, coupled with an awareness of Amy’s own failings. Case in point: The song “You Know I’m No Good.”
Back to Black is an incredible album. It remains one of my favorites of all time, with a permanent place on my desert-island top 3. There’s hardly a bad track on it. No wonder Amy won those five Grammys. (And I still say she should have won Album of the year too. Damn you, Herbie Hancock!)
Seriously. If Back to Black isn’t in your library, then you shouldn’t even call yourself a fan of music.
Amy never did exorcise her demons, and she spiraled even more out of control until her final days in July 2011. It’s a shame, because Amy was a performer with a boatload of talent, and she was sure to build on her success with each successive release. And yet, many people just saw her as a mess, and her death as inevitable.
Two years later, it’s safe to say Amy’s music has outlived her messy public image. That fact makes it even easier to feel sorry that she only put out those two albums (and one-off tracks like “Valerie“). But when your only two major releases are that strong, then you’re leaving behind a hell of a legacy, no matter what other demons you were fighting.
Rest in peace, Amy. You deserve it.
Do you have a favorite Amy Winehouse song? Share your answer in the comments section below.