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Back To Black
Neil Brennan, 09 Nov 2006
She might have lost a few pounds since the last album, but one thing Amy Winehouse still has is balls. And how. Her new album is one giant ‘fuck you’ – to tabloid hacks, to critics, and, mostly, to every man who has ever broken her heart. But at the same time as she ripping those silly boys to shreds, she’s unleashing that unbelievable voice over melodies that recreate the best of ‘60s girl groups like the Shangri-Las.
While her debut ‘Frank’ had moments of great power and tenderness, on her second LP, Winehouse seems a much more sophisticated and certain performer. The chorus of ‘Me & Mr Jones’ sees her singing the praises of the eponymous beau, but just a few lines later she’s telling him he “don’t mean dick to me”. Lead single ‘Rehab’ kicks and stomps, with a refrain of “They tried to make me go to rehab/ I said no, no, no”. With such sassy stubbornness, it’s hard to imagine any man daring to tell Miss Winehouse to do anything.
Her true talent though – and it’s obvious from the first play – is how she manages to combine sweet soul with lyrics that are profane, bitingly funny, and bitterly honest. “Tell your boyfriend/Next time he around/To buy his own weed and don’t wear my shit down” she croons on album closer ‘Addicted’. The record lasts 35 minutes with each of the 11 songs kept to just the right length. In fact, most of them are probably that bit too short – their deliciously lavish productions and simple choruses leaving you panting for more.
But despite the ballsy attitude, there’s a vulnerability too. Titles like ‘Love Is A Losing Game’, ‘Tears Dry On Their Own’, and ‘Back To Black’ hint at this, and Winehouse’s voice gives a stunning potency to lyrics that tell of breaking hearts and having her own broken. And only Satan himself knows what she sold in order to get that voice, because it surely can’t belong to a 23-year-old Londoner.
This summer saw the arrival of Lily Allen, whose music connected with our collective joy at the arrival of the good weather. But it’s winter now, and the return of Amy Winehouse chimes perfectly with the darker days and bleaker nights. Who needs love when heartbreak sounds this bloody good?