Back to Black has been getting a fair bit of repeat play around my house. I have to confess that I’d never really paid much attention to Amy Winehouse until after she passed away.
Not that I’ve given in to some kind of ‘top blokes after death’, overwrought mourning. It’s just usually, I like to do a little research before I add an album to my collection.
It’s been the case that prior to Amy Winehouse passing away, much of the information that’s been prominent has been coverage of live performances gone wrong, and cute toddlers singing Rehab. And that’s before considering the schadenfreude tabloid media could be found revelling in over the artist’s personal issues.
Hitting a wall of this stuff was discouraging, in addition to frustrating to attempts at finding useful information. Of course, you can just buy the album and listen, but that’s just not what I do.
This situation changed somewhat. During a brief window in which tabloids spent the time eulogising, pretending to have always loved Amy, the cynical obfuscation disappeared just for a second or two. You got to catch a glimpse of that which those familiar with the best of Amy had been seening all along.
The penny dropped, and I bought the album, and I loved it. But I don’t really know why I love it. I can and will say good things about it, but this will still fall short of what I’d prefer to express – it’s just that I can’t.
The fact is, the place where this music is touching me is somewhere that’s been numb for a couple of decades. That’s twenty-odd years without a specific range of emotional experiences from which to form an opinion.
I really don’t know what’s going on, and it’s not as if the specifics of the lyrics are something I can relate to. I’ve never cheated on anyone, and I’ve never had an addiction and I can’t say much of the rest is personally familiar. Obviously I shouldn’t be literal about this.
I suspect it’s the way she sings and write about her troubles. She’s not defensive, she’s not singing apologetics, there’s just a resigned, wry, half-sad, dignified half-smile to the lyrics that invites you to empathise.
Unless of course you need to have something to rail against. I’ve heard all sorts of shit in the aftermath of her passing. Everyone’s got a half-baked piece of wisdom on the matter (including me, obviously).
If it’s not the people rushing to pretend they understand what it’s all about, and how Amy sang the songs of their life (bullshit), it’s some pretentious git pretending how they know how it all went wrong – not just Amy, but how society caused all this mess.
‘Society glamorises suffering artists’, (as if this could explain everything that went wrong).
‘She needed to be told that being happy was okay for an artist’, (as if were that easy).
It’s as if they hope now that Amy’s passed away too young, Mary Whitehouse can be resurrected in exchange to give us the sanitised version.
‘I cleaned myself,
Like you knew I could,
I told you I was moral,
You know I’m just that good.’
No. I don’t think I’d like it.
Accuse me of glamorising human error, but I’m looking forward to the December release of her previously unheard material. Winehouse that is, not Whitehouse.