Demons hid amaz­ing tal­ent

Sunday Tasmanian - Tassie Living - - Music - JAR­RAD BE­VAN

BRI­TISH singer Amy Wine­house has been eu­lo­gised and con­demned in the fort­night since her un­timely death at 27; praised as a tal­ented singer and writ­ten off as a junkie.

But if we brush aside all the trap­pings of fame, her per­sonal life and ob­vi­ous demons, what’s left is the mu­sic – and her mu­sic was amaz­ing, touch­ing and dis­arm­ingly hon­est.

Let’s start with her de­but Frank, which ush­ered in Wine­house as a flag bearer for the next gen­er­a­tion of tal­ented Bri­tish jazz artists.

What set her apart are the al­bum’s hip-hop beats that laid a swag­ger­ing foun­da­tion un­der­neath Frank’s jazzy melodies.

Her voice was sharp, ma­ture, rich and drip­ping with an attitude not of­ten heard from a 19-year-old.

Brazen sin­gle Stronger Than Me was an at­tack on a with­er­ing man while on Amy Amy Amy she told her­self off for hav­ing such a soft spot for bad boys.

There’s high drama on the soul­ful out­ing In My Bed; quirky fun on an ode to her favourite gui­tar Cherry; and then a tale about cheat­ing on her boyfriend called I Heard Love Is Blind.

She showed off a cut­ting but funny side with F---Me Pumps, a song about gold-dig­ging groupies who were out to snag a foot­ball player for a hus­band.

Some­times Wine­house sounded sleazy, oth­ers in­no­cent. Her ap­petite for self-de­struc­tion was yet to be re­vealed but her clas­sic jazz croon al­ways had a dirty edge.

Next came Back to Black and its ridicu­lous sin­gle Re­hab, which made her an in­ter­na­tional pop star.

On an al­bum that is so very nearly flaw­less, this song sticks out like a bad smell in an el­e­va­tor.

As a B-side to a sin­gle it might have been an al­most funny brush-off of the peo­ple who had con­cerns about her hard-par­ty­ing life­style.

This al­bum turned its back on her jazz roots, favour­ing Mo­town and doo-wop sounds.

Su­per-pro­ducer Mark Ron­son helped her de­liver its melan­cholic melodies, a blast of hip-hop tough­ness in the rhythm sec­tion and a ’ 60s at­mos­phere.

There was not a drop of hap­pi­ness on the song that shared the al­bum’s name or its sad si­b­lings Love Is a Los­ing Game, Tears Dry on Their Own or Wake Up Alone. Each took inspiration from her heartache over a lost lover and each word stings with the be­trayal she was feel­ing. Amaz­ing con­fes­sional song­writ­ing with a cap­i­tal A, eas­ily the best mu­sic she ever wrote.

What re­ally made Back to Black spe­cial was the cli­mate it was re­leased in. Some­how Wine­house flour­ished as an old-fash­ioned song­writer against a world of over-pro­duced, of­ten un­tal­ented con­tem­po­raries.

Any­one who was a fan, lis­tened to these al­bums or read gos­sip mag­a­zines could have guessed that, un­for­tu­nately, Back to Black was des­tined to be Amy Wine­house’s swan­song.

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