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Amy Winehouse - Back To Black


"She [Winehouse] was in Miami only for ten days for Back to Black. Her vocals were quick. She'd give a couple takes that were effortless and honest, and we'd [the Instrumental Zoo personnel] have it. People think of studio sessions as all-nighters, but we'd get there at 10 a.m. to set up; she'd come at noon. By 8 or 9 at night, we were done and we'd be back up in the morning getting it done in the daylight."




Amy Winehouse - Back To Black



Most of the songs on Back to Black were solely written by Winehouse,[19] as her primary focus of the album's sound shifted more towards the style of the girl groups from the 1950s and 1960s. Winehouse worked with New York singer Sharon Jones's longtime band, the Dap-Kings, to back her up in the studio and on tour.[20] Her father, Mitch Winehouse, relates in his memoir, Amy, My Daughter, how fascinating watching her process was, especially with witnessing her perfectionism in the studio. She would also put out what she had sung on a CD and play it in his taxi outside to know how most people would hear her music.[21]


"I just thought, 'Let's talk about music, see what she likes.' She said she liked to go out to bars and clubs and play snooker with her boyfriend and listen to the Shangri-Las. So she played me some of those records ... I told her that I had nothing to play her right now but if she [lets] me work on something overnight she could come back tomorrow. So I came up with this little piano riff, which became the verse chords to 'Back to Black.' Behind it I just put a kick drum and a tambourine and tons of reverb."[22]


"One day [Ronson and Winehouse] decided to take a quick stroll around the neighborhood because Amy wanted to buy [her then-boyfriend] Alex Clare a present ... on the way back Amy began telling Mark about being with Blake [Fielder-Civil, her ex], then not being with Blake and being with Alex instead. She told him about the time at my house after she'd been in hospital when everyone had been going on at her about her drinking: 'You know they tried to make me go to rehab, and I told them, no, no, no.' 'That's quite gimmicky,' Mark replied. 'It sounds hooky. You should go back to the studio and we should turn that into a song.'"[22]


Back to Black has been cited to have musical stylings of contemporary R&B,[34] neo soul,[37] reggae,[38] classic R&B,[39] and 1960s "pop and soul".[40] According to AllMusic's John Bush, Back to Black finds Winehouse "deserting jazz and wholly embracing contemporary R&B".[41] David Mead of Paste also viewed it as a departure from Frank and said that it sets her singing to Salaam Remi and Mark Ronson's "synthetic Motown-style backdrop".[42] Meanwhile, Ann Powers from NPR Music characterised Back to Black as "a full embrace of classic rhythm and blues."[39] Music journalist Chuck Eddy credits Ronson and Remi's production for resembling Phil Spector's Wall of Sound technique and surrounding Winehouse with brass and string sections, harp, and the Wurlitzer.[36] PopMatters writer Christian John Wikane said that its "sensibilities of 1960s pop and soul" are contradicted by Winehouse's "blunt" lyrics and felt that "this particular marriage of words and music mirrors the bittersweet dichotomy that sometimes frames real relationships".[40] The staff of The A.V. Club emphasized on "the record's status as the pinnacle of the Brit neo-soul wave it ushered in".[37]


The fourth song on the album, "Just Friends", is about "[a woman] trying to pull away from an illicit affair", with lyrics indicating, "The guilt will kill you if she don't first". It is a "ska-soul" song[49] with a "pulsing reggae groove" throughout the track.[38] Jon Pareles of The New York Times elaborates that Winehouse makes songs such as "Just Friends" into "games of tone and phrasing [...] withholding a line and then breezing through it, stretching out a note over [her backing band]'s steady beat".[50]


The title track "Back to Black" explores elements of old-school soul music.[51] The song's sound and beat have been described as similar to vintage girl groups from the 1960s.[52][53] Its production was noted for its Wall of Sound.[52][54] Winehouse expresses feelings of hurt and bitterness for a boyfriend who has left her; however, throughout the lyrics she "remains strong" exemplified in the opening lines, "He left no time to regret, Kept his d_ck [sic] wet, With his same old safe bet, Me and my head high, And my tears dry, Get on without my guy".[55] The song was inspired by her relationship with Fielder-Civil, who had left Winehouse for an ex-girlfriend. The breakup left her going to "black", which to the listener may appear to refer to drinking and depression. "Black" has sometimes been considered as a reference to heroin, but this is inaccurate as Winehouse's heroin use did not begin until after her marriage to Blake Fielder-Civil (mid 2007), as confirmed in the Asif Kapadia documentary. The song's lyrical content consists of a sad goodbye to a relationship with the lyrics being frank.[53][56] John Murphy of musicOMH compared the song's introduction to the Martha and the Vandellas song "Jimmy Mack", adding that it continues to a "much darker place".[51]


"He Can Only Hold Her" interpolates "(My Girl) She's a Fox" by brothers Robert and Richard Poindexter. Joshua Klein of Pitchfork describes Winehouse in the song as "an objective observer, [and] able to see her personal issues for what they are". The chorus goes, "So he tries to pacify her, 'cause what's inside her never dies".[64] Klein assumes that from "this new vantage [,] Winehouse has moved on".[65] John Harrison, the original demo producer of "He Can Only Hold Her", explained at a BIMM London masterclass that he was "introduced to '(My Girl) She's a Fox' by his sister". He then played the song for Winehouse and, when she expressed interest, made a backing track for her. Harrison was not originally given a writing credit on Back to Black, so he sued Winehouse for copyright infringement. They had a settlement over the song, and eventually, his name was added to the track. The initial Back to Black liner notes only said: "Original demo produced by P*Nut [John Harrison's nickname]."[66][67]


Following Winehouse's death on 23 July 2011,[134] sales of Back to Black drastically increased across the world. The album rose to number one on several iTunes charts worldwide.[135] On 24 July 2011, with fewer than seven hours sales after the announcement of her death counting towards the respective week's chart figures,[136] the album re-entered the UK Albums Chart at number 49 with 2,446 copies sold.[137] The following week, it soared back to number one,[76] marking the fourth time the album had reached the top of the chart. Back to Black held the top spot for two additional weeks.[138][139] On 26 July 2011, Billboard reported that the album had re-entered the Billboard 200 chart dated 6 August 2011 at number nine with sales of 37,000 copies,[140] although that week's chart only tracked the first 36 hours of sales after her death was announced.[141] The following week, it climbed to number seven with 38,000 copies sold after a full week's worth of sales.[142] In Canada, the album re-entered the Canadian Albums Chart at number 13 on sales of 2,500 copies.[143][144] It rose to number six the following week, selling an additional 5,000 copies.[145] In continental Europe, Back to Black returned to the number-one spot in Austria,[146] Croatia,[147] Germany,[148] the Netherlands,[149] Poland[150] and Switzerland,[151] while reaching number one for the first time in Italy.[152]


"Back to Black" received universal acclaim by music critics, who generally praised its throwback sound to girl groups from the 1960s. It was included on several compiled year and decade-end lists of the best in music and was further considered to be one of Winehouse's signature songs. The single peaked at number eight on the UK Singles Chart in the United Kingdom and is Winehouse's third best-selling single in that country. Many artists recorded covers of the song; most notably, Beyoncé and André 3000 covered it for the soundtrack of the 2013 film adaptation of the novel The Great Gatsby (1925).


"Back to Black" was inspired by her relationship with Blake Fielder-Civil. He had left Winehouse for an ex-girlfriend, leaving her going to "black," which the listener may take to be drinking and depression. "Black" has sometimes been considered as a reference to heroin, but this is inaccurate as Winehouse's heroin use did not begin until after her later marriage to Fielder-Civil (May 2007), as confirmed in the Asif Kapadia documentary.


The music video was directed by Phil Griffin and features a funeral procession in which Winehouse mourns over a grave that reads "R.I.P. the Heart of Amy Winehouse". The shot of the headstone was edited out after the singer's death in 2011. The video was primarily shot near Gibson Gardens and Chesholm Road in Stoke Newington, London. The graveyard scenes were filmed at Abney Park Cemetery in northeast London. According to the official Winehouse website, "Amy's sultry new video for Back in Black [sic] is both beautifully and artistically shot in black-and-white and compares in imagery a doomed love affair with that of a funeral."[23] At the 2007 Music of Black Origin Awards (MOBO), the music video was nominated for Best Video but lost to Kanye West's "Stronger" (2007).[24][25] Myers of the Official Charts Company deemed the clip "super-sad" and felt it went further on the song's main theme of goodbye.[6] As of December 2022, the video has over 850 million views on YouTube.[26]


The story of Back to Black is one in which celebrity and the potential of commercial success threaten to ruin Amy Winehouse, since the same insouciance and playfulness that made her sound so special when she debuted could easily have been whitewashed right out of existence for this breakout record. (That fact may help to explain why fans were so scared by press allegations that Winehouse had deliberately lost weight in order to present a slimmer appearance.) Although Back to Black does see her deserting jazz and wholly embracing contemporary R&B, all the best parts of her musical character emerge intact, and actually, are all the better for the transformation from jazz vocalist to soul siren. With producer Salaam Remi returning from Frank, plus the welcome addition of Mark Ronson (fresh off successes producing for Christina Aguilera and Robbie Williams), Back to Black has a similar sound to Frank but much more flair and spark to it. Winehouse was inspired by girl group soul of the '60s, and fortunately Ronson and Remi are two of the most facile and organic R&B producers active. (They certainly know how to evoke the era too; Remi's "Tears Dry on Their Own" is a sparkling homage to the Motown chestnut "Ain't No Mountain High Enough," and Ronson summons a host of Brill Building touchstones on his tracks.) As before, Winehouse writes all of the songs from her experiences, most of which involve the occasionally riotous and often bittersweet vagaries of love. Also in similar fashion to Frank, her eye for details and her way of relating them are delightful. She states her case against "Rehab" on the knockout first single with some great lines: "They tried to make me go to rehab I won't go go go, I'd rather be at home with Ray" (Charles, that is). As often as not, though, the songs on Back to Black are universal, songs that anyone, even Joss Stone, could take to the top of the charts, such as "Love Is a Losing Game" or the title song ("We only said good bye with words, I died a hundred times/You go back to her, and I go back to black"). 041b061a72


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