By Anteneh Gebre
Artist: Amy Winehouse
Release: October 20, 2003
When I stopped sleeping on it: Summer 2014
If you’re reading this it’s too late. LOL JK you good fam. Welcome to Throwback Thursday. I’m your host, ya boy, and most importantly, your guilt free guide to prolific albums people look at you like a crazy person for not knowing, Anteneh Gebre.
I gotta come clean before we go any further. I didn’t like Amy Winehouse until after she died. It’s not because she died (yes I felt bad when she died, I’m not a fucking monster), it just sorta happened like that. I found out about her the same way most Americans did: hearing “Rehab” everywhere I went. I thought the song was okay when I heard it first but it quickly got old and made me resent her. It wasn’t until years after she passed that my sister recommended I check out Lioness: Hidden Treasures, Winehouse’s posthumous compilation, telling me it was very different from what I know from the singer. I couldn’t stop playing it. Eventually I dug deeper and listened to her 2 studio albums, Frank and Back to Black, and here we are.
Frank is Winehouse’s debut album; it reached #33 on the Billboard 200 and has sold over 3 million copies worldwide. I’ve listened to it so much that I can’t remember whether or not I’ve imposed this feeling onto the music or it genuinely came from it but let’s go with the latter for the sake of word count. Even though Winehouse is from London, the album also just feels like New York and Paris to me. When I put it on and close my eyes it takes me to Sunday morning. Hot coffee mug in my hand, sitting on a balcony overlooking one of the two cities, I think my eggs are done but I let them sit a little longer to take in the view. This record playing in the background and I’m thinking about how I’m going to spend the day doing as little as possible.
Sorry, got sidetracked by one of my lazy Parisian/New Yorker fantasies. Music time. When I started listening to Amy, I was very familiar with hip hop with jazz samples and such, however, I had never thought about it the other way around: jazz with hip hop elements. The drums on the first song “Stronger Than Me” and “October Song” are hard enough to rap on and “In My Bed” has essentially the same instrumental as Nas’ “Made You Look” (both songs produced by one of Winehouse’s frequent collaborators Salaam Remi). From this it’s clear that 90’s NY boom bap was nearly as influential to the sound of the album as it’s namesake, Frank Sinatra.
My favorite thing about this record and what made me fall in love with Amy’s music is the lyrics and more specifically, the perspective and the stance she takes. None of the songs use the typical female solo artist tropes of “My boyfriend’s being a jerk so I’m going out with my girlfriend’s tonight” or “Why won’t he call me back?” “Fuck Me Pumps” is probably the song most well known for its lyrics. The song is making fun of gold diggers and Winehouse attacks with such cutting sarcasm I can’t help but think it’s personal. Maybe the girls she didn’t get along with in high school became these girls and she just emptied the clip on this song. “Never miss a night/’cause your dream in life/is to be a footballers wife” Ouch. “Stronger Than Me” is Amy trying to deal with a boyfriend who’s too soft for her and her being uncomfortable having to take what is traditionally the man’s role in a hetero relationship. “I Heard Love Is Blind” is my favorite: she cheats on her boyfriend with a guy who kinda looks like him and guess what? THAT’S HER EXCUSE. I WAS DRUNK. HE LOOKED LIKE YOU. CLOSE ENOUGH. The entire song is your typical “let’s just forget this ever happened and not let it affect our relationship” plea that typical comes from guys (at least in music) but the fact that it came from a woman was so refreshing and kinda funny (I realize if you’ve actually had this happen to you, you may not see the humor but for the rest of us LOL right?).
Years after her passing, Amy Winehouse’s music found new ears in me and my sister and hopefully this music continues to be shared so that her memory and her art are never forgotten. OH WOW I’M AN ASSHOLE. I forgot to talk about how incredible her voice was. I mean she was a jazz singer who broke into the mainstream; I feel like that accomplishment tells you what you need to know. Just go listen.
Favorites: “Know You Now”, “I Heard Love Is Blind”, “Take The Box”
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