Amy Winehouse's 'Back in Black' Album: When Pain Met Perfection
(Editor's Note: This piece was penned 6/20/2011, nearly one month before Winehouse's death. Nathan S., who wrote the piece, added this update: This article takes on a sad new meaning in light of Amy's death. It's easy to wax nostalgic about what could have been, but while she was alive Amy Winehouse gave the world a truly classic album, and there aren't many people who can say that. RIP.)
After footage of Amy Winehouse's disastrous comeback tour started surfacing (don't worry, the tour's been cancelled) I immediately set aside for a future Fails of the Week, but Amy's saga has gone way past humorous fail. Actually, it's just kind of depressing and at the very least deserved its own post.
To be clear, Winehouse's "Back to Black" album is, and I'm completely serious here, one of the best soul/r&b album of the last decade. If you're only familiar with "Back in Black" via the breakthrough single "Rehab", you need to listen to the entire album. Like right f*cking now.
"Rehab" is now unlistenable - through no fault of its own, it's just been incredible overplayed - so feel to skip past track one, but from there on it's nothing but classics. And if you need some rappity rap rap to even press play, she even did a remix with Ghostface Killah, which has to set some sort of world record for Most Collective Craziness on One Track:
But what makes "Back to Black" truly remarkable is you can hear Amy on the brink of collapse. Listening to a women on the edge is absolutely captivating, but she hasn't yet gone over the edge and become completely pistachios. Her previous album, "Frank", just good but doesn't have enough pain in it to be classic. And after "Back to Black" she become a human trainwreck. But, through an act of historical fate, she was the perfect amount of fucked up during the "Back to Black" recording sessions.
Pre "Back to Black"? Not f*cked up enough to be able to really make you feel her pain? Post "Fade to Black"? Too f*cked up to to even remember the words to her own songs. But right around 2006? Just the right amount of f*cked up.
(Side note: "What kind of f*ckery is this? / you made me miss the Slick Rick" is secretly one of the best lines on any album ever. Not only is she using the word "f*ckery", but she's pissed her boyfriend stood her up at the Slick Rick concert. It doesn't get much better than that.)
Will Amy ever get it together and make great music again? I sincerely doubt it- her brain's far too scrambled and the once in a lifetime circumstances that created "Back to Black" are, well, once in a lifetime. Honestly then, I'd almost rather she just stopped making music entirely, got clean, threw on a sweater to cover the tattoos and led a boring but sober rest of her life. As much as I'd like to hear another Amy Winehouse album I also don't want to see another human being die, and I don't think both those things can happen.
So hey Amy, stop. Just stop. And the same goes to the promoters and managers who keep throwing her on stage. It's over. You can only be the perfect amount of f*cked up for so long, and Amy Winehouse is well past that point.