Wednesday, July 27, 2011

We Only Said Goodbye With Words

So, amidst my vacation and LJ's general asshattery, I learned the rather sad news that Amy Winehouse, an artist I was exceedingly fond of, passed away at the alarmingly young age of 27. A lot of people have said a lot of things about her, and they're entitled to their opinion.

I first heard of her around the same time almost everyone I know did, when people started linking to her video of "Rehab" around the time Britney Spears had her bald-headed freakout and got shipped off for her first of many involuntary psychiatric holds. I liked the song immediately - it was sharp, it was funky, the lyrics were clever, and it had horns, which is a major musical weakness of mine. I love me some brass and woodwinds on a track.

New Orleans Girl had just started working with me around that time, and I asked if she'd heard of it. She's generally way ahead of the curve music-wise, and already had the album in her possession. We listened to it at work a lot, so much that I got my own copy as soon as I could. It's a fantastic, fantastic collection of songs, with Amy growling over a whirlwind of moaning horns, thumping bass and drums and dirty guitar. I can't lie - the songs "You Know I'm No Good" and "Back to Black" would send me back to the repeat button far more than some of the others, but I loved every bit of that album. And when New Orleans Girl introduced me to "Valerie", I went nuts. It was a perfect combination of vocal and instrumental, produced beautifully, and what I point to first when explaining why Mark Ronson is one of the best producers around today.

I tried not to pay too much attention to the train wreck that Amy's life started to become after awhile. I just wanted her butt back in the studio, writing and releasing new songs. (Preferably good ones). I discovered other, similar artists that I came to really enjoy as well - Sharon Jones & the Dap Kings, Adele, Kate Nash...but I still hoped that Amy was going to record another amazing record and blow everyone away.

Instead Adele did that (What, you haven't listened to 21 yet? GO. IMMEDIATELY.) and Amy died. :/

I realized today that despite New Orleans Girl's urging, I never listened to "Frank", Amy's debut. She'd said it was more "Erikah Badu-esque", and I kind of shrugged it off, as I much preferred the post-apocalyptic Ronnie Spector vibe she had on "Back to Black." But after learning that there would be no more albums, I finally cued it up on Spotify (a new toy I'm still learning how to use) and had a listen.

Now I am truly sad. The music is funky and jazzy - combining bebop swing with hip hop bounce seamlessly. And the lyrics are equally good - as sharp and funny as anything on Back to Black, if not better.

I wish she'd put more tracks down in the studio than tracks in her arm. I really do. It's a fucking waste that we lost someone with so much potential, and I feel that way someone young and promising meets and untimely end, especially when it's due to addiction. It's so unfair.

One song I heard on Frank just now sent chills up my spine. It's called "October Song," and looking back with 20-20 vision, let's just say it's a little prescient. Look that up, check it out. Check her out - she's more than a punchline, she's a great voice that we lost. And that's a fucking sad thing.



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