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UK-based soul singing songstress Amy Winehouse became a household name with the release of her second album; Back to Black. We take a look to see if it’s really worth all the fuss.

If you hadn’t seen a photograph of Amy Winehouse before listening to one of her songs, you would swear that she was African American and not, in fact, of UK Jewish descent.

Winehouse makes no attempt to hide this in her aptly named Back to Black album. Her voice quality is warm, rich, rough and soulful, and in some tracks, she really does seem to be channeling the Motown greats, while in others, such as Me & Mr Jones, she seems influenced by 1940s jazz.

Most people will have heard her hits from this album: Rehab and You Know I’m No Good. The former seems made to be a hit with a catchy tune you will be caught humming all day. But Winehouse’s all-too-public struggles with alcohol and drugs add a certain mystery and realism to the song that makes the whole thing a lot more intriguing. After all – there is always something appealing about an artist who struggles for his or her art.

That said, whether Rehab is the contemporary version of the soul classic Home Is Where The Hatred Is, is still arguable.

The other songs on the album vary between hit and miss. Those that are good – she really nails, with soulful interpretations and excellent songwriting. Anyone who still hankers after the lost soul, Motown or even funk era is almost sure to be impressed by a few of these tracks. Unfortunately, other tracks which nudge more toward the pop genre can feel a little over-produced, and the vocals and arrangement, a little grating.

Overall, though, the album is mostly well-produced by Mark Ronson, in some tracks you really get the sense that Winehouse is singing with a grand big band of olden times. It is always exciting to see contemporary artists pushing forward genres of music traditionally thought to be “old-school” and for that reason, I found Winehouse’s album quite enjoyable. Definitely worth a listen (to more than just the hit tracks).

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