Amy Winehouse - Frank (2007)

Amy Winehouse
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"They tried to make me go to rehab...I said no, no, no."

Now, does art, in fact, imitate life with these ubiquitous lyrics in mind? Music enthusiasts across the country have been raving about the risqué and brutally honest language on Amy Winehouse's U.S. debut album Back to Black. During the course of 2007, the real truth about this new English phenomenon began to unravel. Media reports about possible eating disorders, depression, drug use, and self-mutilation have ravaged her short career in the States. Nevertheless, the word about Amy's retro-soul styling present throughout Back to Black also continues to spread.

"They tried to make me go to rehab...I said no, no, no."

Now, does art, in fact, imitate life with these ubiquitous lyrics in mind? Music enthusiasts across the country have been raving about the risqué and brutally honest language on Amy Winehouse's U.S. debut album Back to Black. During the course of 2007, the real truth about this new English phenomenon began to unravel. Media reports about possible eating disorders, depression, drug use, and self-mutilation have ravaged her short career in the States. Nevertheless, the word about Amy's retro-soul styling present throughout Back to Black also continues to spread.

Not many fans are aware that Back to Black is indeed a sophomore project. In 2003, the 24-year-old singer-songwriter witnessed the U.K. release of her official debut album Frank. On November 20, 2007, Frank was released domestically to further satisfy Amy's audience here in America. Frank is allegedly a reference to her admiration for legendary jazz vocalist Frank Sinatra and the style of music on this album is deeply rooted in both jazz and R&B.

One of the most intriguing things about Amy on Frank is her appearance. There are no aesthetic signs of the deteriorated rock-star seen in today's media. She even bares a smile on the album's cover. From the looks of things, one would expect to hear the music of a rough-around-the-edges pop princess. Superficially, it appears as though the soul of Back to Black was simply a fluke. Co-writing the majority of the songs on Frank, Amy Winehouse is no fluke, fraud or gimmick. The official debut album of her career in music solidifies the authenticity and rawness of her tortured soul.

On Frank, Amy's melancholy phrasing and British vernacular are magnified likely because it was recorded to comfort her original base of fans in the UK. She combines a modern-day edge reminiscent of Billie Holiday with a youth-inspired R&B vibe similar to the music of Lauryn Hill. It's the sorrow-filled story of "Take the Box" that really allows Amy the freedom she needs to display that edge and vibe. The piano intro transports the listener directly into the mind-frame of a juke joint patron. It's dark, emotional and the wounds are still fresh with lyrics such as "Mr. false pretense, you don't make sense...I just don't know you. But you made me cry. Where's my kiss goodbye...I think I love you."

The juke joint theme thrives on through mild jazz numbers like "(There is) No Greater Love,"  "I Heard Love is Blind" & her rendition of the legendary tune "Moody's Mood for Love." Amy's unique phrasing takes center stage especially on these songs. It reminds you repeatedly that she's not a native. She also rushes the melody slightly especially on the remake. Yet, oddly, she seems most comfortable with these subtle jazz arrangements; it's obvious that jazz is her first love.

Frank also offers some hip-hop influence on "In My Bed." Salaam Remi co-wrote and produced this track, which he also previously used for Nas' 2002 hit single "Made You Look." The song contains elements of the Incredible Bongo Band's cover of "Apache" from the 1970's. It's a stretch for the talented Ms. Winehouse, but the chorus proves this melody is worthy of such a hardcore track. Amy flows over the music flawlessly. It's eerily similar to something either Erykah Badu or Lauryn Hill would've recorded.

Amy Winehouse is an artist full of integrity, authenticity and vulnerability. She's not afraid to express her true feelings and it's usually shocking when she does. Her unique and fresh approach to R&B/soul music has been welcomed by all music lovers. Unintentionally, Frank just happens to be the precursor to her Back to Black persona. The lyrics suggest that there's some trouble in what appears to be paradise. As her legal and personal troubles continue to develop into 2008, Amy's music continues to touch more and more listeners. Frank is a well-deserved release to the States. The world needs to recognize her artistic brilliance, which is not at all a fluke.

by Akim Bryant

 
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