Back To Black is one of those rare albums on which everything just feels right. Amy Winehouse has a voice that goes well beyond her years, filled with a jazzy soul that leans much more towards the classic sounds of Aretha Franklin, Etta James and Billie Holiday than her UK pop counterparts. Where Winehouse sneaks up on you is in her lyrics, which make for an interesting contrast to her classic vocal style.
For an artist in her early twenties, it is cool to hear somebody embrace such a jazz-inspired sultry delivery like Winehouse, such as in the lead single "Rehab." This biographical tale of refusing to check herself into rehab makes for a perfect album opener. Produced by Mark Ronson, the '60s sound of the track is filled with strings, saxophones and a great groove. This shit is real, honest and deserving of all the hype.
Her infatuation with girl groups such as The Supremes shine through on the doo-wop of "Me And Mr. Jones." Of course, I'm not sure you'd ever hear Diana Ross ever sing "What kind of fuckery it this? You made me miss the Slick Rick gig." Producer Salaam Remi takes that whole vibe up a notch on "Tears Dry On Their Own," sounding like it was recorded forty years ago. Ronson brings back the smooth groove to "He Can Only Hold Her," perfecting blending the classic soul voice of Winehouse with a beat that should please any indie music fan that has an ounce of good taste.
She concludes her sophomore album with a song about choosing weed over a lover. Pushing the boundaries of pop, soul and everything in-between is what makes Back To Black such a joy. Amy Winehouse tells it like it is, ripping pages out of her diary and transforming them into timeless songs of love and personal struggles. Fitting somewhere between Beth Gibbons from Portishead and Lauryn Hill, Winehouse may have given us a modern day classic.