Amy Winehouse proves that Motown is no longer just a product of the ’60s in her newest album Back to Black. Following the success of her debut album Frank, Winehouse moves away from the complex chord structures of jazz and on to a more ’60s-inspired sound with Back to Black. With influences ranging from Gladys Knight and the Pips to Diana Ross, Winehouse spends most of Back to Black simply telling it like it is.
Lyrics aside, Winehouse’s voice is enough to make the album worth buying. With her ability to sing in nearly any vocal style, ranging from Billie Holiday to Aretha Franklin, it is no wonder that her albums never cease to impress. On Back to Black, she applies this impressive vocal talent to songs that would fit right in on any actual album from the decade.
Back to Black does not just reference the ’60s, it recreates actual hits from the decade with a modern twist. Winehouse uses the catchy rhythm of “Ain’t No Mountain High Enough,” by The Temptations and The Supremes on “Tears Dry On Their Own,” as a brilliant hook behind her own unique lyrics. Unlike other artists, who rip off beats and end up ruining both the new song and the original – ahem, Vanilla Ice – Winehouse manages to successfully mix the two, producing an instantaneous hit. Her music is true enough to the original to please Motown fans and modern enough to make contemporary listeners happy, too.
Back to Black contains more than just catchy melodies. Winehouse pushes the musical envelope even further than the innovative Motown artists who pioneered the genre, with provocative lyrics that would send Motown founder Barry Gordy over the edge. Consider her opening track, “Rehab,” on which she says “I’d rather be at home with Ray / I ain’t got seventy days / Coz there’s nothing / There’s nothing you can teach me / That I can’t learn from Mr. Hathaway.” Maybe this is why Winehouse is not on the Motown record label. That could also be contributed to her use of the word “fuckery” in “Me and Mr. Jones.”
Either way, Winehouse proves that she is a talented force in modern music. Whether she is tackling the complex jazz riffs on Frank or reinventing a beloved genre of American music with Back to Black, she is worth listening to. Listeners everywhere are lucky she chose to channel her emotions into an album rather than rehab.