Wow. This album has so much going on. It spans Amy’s recordings from 2002 until a few months before she passed away in 2011. Such a wide range she had. If you listen to her first two studio albums in order and then this one, you can see how those styles all suited her perfectly.
Back to Black really showcased her love of 60’s soul and girl groups. Amy’s cover of Ruby and the Romantics’ classic song “Our Day Will Come” is the best way this album could have started. She really brings it on this song, putting everything she had into it. The same is true about “Between the Cheats,” a song that is clearly about her fucked up relationship with her on-again, off-again boyfriend and then husband, Blake Fielder-Civil.
My husband is the finest handsome hustler
And he still makes this housewife blush
So I go with him, my hand flicks
I’m sitting on the royal flush…
‘Cause we all have to lock eyes
And I know is my heart beat
There’s a winning secret to both
And it’s sworn between the cheats
Day-um! You fuck around, I fuck around, but we always get back together again fuck again. That’s the kind of love they had. Sad.
I love “Tears Dry,” whether it’s this version or the one on Black to Black. It sounds like a Motown song, or maybe Dionne Warwick, on that record, but here it’s more of a ballad, more somber and languid. And her version of “Will You Still Love Me Tomorrow?” really makes you feel the lyrics, I mean, you totally understand her dilemma. Will you love me in the morning if I give you some tonight? We have all experienced this situation. You know Amy was going through it as she belted out this shit. She sangs this song! I can listen to this over and over and get something new out of her interpretation every time. Fuck, it’s good!
The first time I heard “Like Smoke” I wasn’t crazy about Nas throwin’ his rhymes in there. It didn’t seem to fit with Amy’s voice. But now I do see how it all flows together. They were great friends, so I think they had a certain chemistry. But I do wish there were more Amy on this tune, because she sounds flawless.
“Valerie” is a fun song that has some pretty sad lyrics. I did not realize until recently that Amy did not write it, because it sounds like she’s really tellin’ it from the heart!
Since I’ve come home, well my body’s been a mess,
And I miss your ginger hair, and the way you like to dress.
Oh won’t you come on over, stop making a fool out of me,
Why don’t you come on over, Valerie?
And guuuuuurl! “The Girl from Ipanema” is one of my all-time favorite songs, and when it is sung by one of my favorite all-time artists like Amy? Fuck, man, that’s all I need! Her version is a little jazzier and more up-tempo than Jobim’s original, and it’s as much of a classic.
“Half Time” is a slow and sexy seduction, right up there with anything Sade can work out.
My lyrics revealing
Some natural vibe
It’s kind of a laid back feeling
Oh just let it ride
And when Frank Sinatra sings
It’s too much to take
So I sing the standard shit
It pacifies my ache
The “Wake Up Alone” on this album is the original demo for Back to Black, and it sounds pretty much the same, only simpler. Amy’s interpretation of the lyrics is maybe a little bit more, I don’t know how to describe it, not more soulful, really, but more stark, maybe, because there is very little instrumentation to distract from the power of her voice. You can imagine Amy just sitting down in front of a group of friends in a smoky bar, pouring herself over them as she lets these words flow out of her so easily and beautifully. Chanteuse!
“Best Friends, Right?” is catchy and easy to sing along with. It sounds like it’s about Blake (even though she performed this before she met him), and not just because of the drug references.
I can’t wait to get away from you
Unsurprisingly you hate me too
We only communicate when we need to fight
But we are best friends, right?
Drama drama drama! Lots of people can relate to relationships like this.
When the video for “Body and Soul” with Tony Bennett was released, I could not watch it without breaking down in tears. They recorded it four months before she died, and wow, it is really something to see. She looks really great, and she was doing her best Billie Holiday for Tony. Seriously, if you did not know it was Amy Winehouse, you would think it was Billie Holiday! I love this version of an amazing song.
As much as “Our Day Will Come” is the best way to start off this album, “A Song for You” is the best way to end it. It starts with simple piano keys and the sound of rain, and graduates into a funky, sad beat with heartbreaking words sung in an impressive and emotional tone. Amy’s favorite singer, Donny Hathaway, originally recorded this song, and her interpretation is just gut-wrenching. This is another fantastic example of how she was able to take somebody else’s song and make it sound like she wrote it.
I’ve been so many places in my life and time
I’ve sung a lot of songs, I’ve made some bad rhyme
I’ve acted out my life in stages
With ten thousand people watching
But we’re alone now and I’m singing this song for you
That’s powerful. I did not know anything about Donny Hathaway until I became an Amy fan. Right after this song ends, Amy is heard talking about how much she loves him, how he sings like he just cannot contain himself. She lived her life exactly like that. She could never contain her feelings, good or bad. And she’s not here anymore because of that.
And when my life is over
Remember, remember, remember, remember when we were together
And I was singing this song for you