Join us as we revisit Back To Black, the album by the amazingly talented Amy Winehouse who touched our hearts, changed the industry, and inspired countless artists.
Last updated: 18th Aug 2022
On Saturday the 23rd of July 2011, the music world was plunged into gloom as it was announced that Amy Winehouse had died. At just 27 years old, music fans and artists everywhere were distraught to hear of her tragic and untimely death.
Amy had only released two studio albums, both of which were received well by critics, the public and other musicians. But it was her sophomore album, Back To Black, that resonated with millions and shot her to new levels of stardom.
Released just 16 years ago, some may argue Back To Black is too young to be branded a classic. But with just about every citizen of Earth knowing the lyrics to Rehab, Love Is a Losing Game, You Know I'm No Good, Tears Dry on Their Own, and Back To Black, we’d beg to differ.
It quickly became obvious Back To Black would become a classic for more reasons than one. Amy had an incredible, instantly recognisable voice. And she used it to paint shockingly candid pictures of the love, infidelity, heartache, addiction, and loneliness she'd experienced. Amy was unashamedly herself in her lyrics. She didn’t care if it made her seem vulnerable.
Whether you can personally relate to what she sang about or not, you feel her suffering. The pain in her voice, lyrics, and music is infectious. It’s no surprise it became one of the best-selling albums in UK history and earned her multiple Grammy Awards.
Musically, Back To Black was all about creating impact. Having listened to girl groups of the 50s and 60s, Amy knew she wanted to take a more direct and simple approach to get through to the listener. The title track is the perfect example. It’s so simple, it’s insane how deeply it cuts and the raw emotion that instantly hypnotises you, tearing you from your reality and into Amy’s, which is agonising.
But it’s not an entirely gloomy project. Tears Dry On Their Own, borrowing the main chord progression from Ain’t No Mountain High Enough (Marvin Gaye and Tammi Terrell), offers a much-welcomed optimistic break. And both You Know I’m No Good and Rehab, despite being about rather dark topics, are musically upbeat, catchy, and danceable.
All three tracks are used brilliantly to emphasise the darker moments on the album while giving listeners time to digest them and prevent the album from becoming overwhelmingly sorrowful.
Amy’s influences are vast and pair amazingly well with her soulful voice. Just Friends, for example, relies heavily on reggae sensibilities with the off beats emphasised and that deep, warm reggae bass. And He Can Only HoldHer calls in a hand from an RnB song, My Girl (She's a Fox), by The Icemen, which you can recognise in seconds.
While we’re here to discuss the album, it’d be negligent not to touch on Amy's style as a whole. For Amy, her look was a huge part of how she expressed herself, too. She's easily recognised by her beehive hair alone, but her excessive eyeliner and tattoos are some of her other features that we all picture when we hear her name. Stood next to the other women in the charts at the time, she stood out. She was different.
The reason we bring up her appearance while discussing her biggest album is because, together, they changed the industry. Following the success of Back To Black, record companies began looking for more experimental female artists.
Amy's different personality, look, and sound gave artists such as Adele, Duffy, and unconventional women such as Lady Gaga, a chance in the industry. Other artists to have credited Amy Winehouse include Jorja Smith, Lana Del Rey, Billie Eilish, Bruno Mars, Florence Welch, Sam Smith, Estelle, and countless others. Her and Back To Black’s impact is so vast it’s simply immeasurable.
Amy and her music will always be legendary. Her deeply moving sounds, otherworldly voice, vulnerable and honest lyrics, and instantly recognisable look will stay with the music world for years to come. And with yet another movie about her tragically short but incredibly successful life on the way, it’s clear we all miss her and will simply never forget her or her timeless, soulful tunes.
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