Last year, Natasha Bedingfield made it okay to be a British pop star again, something that hasn't been true since five spicey girls wandered their wasy over the Atlantic. Some might say that Robbie Williams and Craig David had their moment, but that's exactly what it was. A moment. They both had huge marketing pushes but once it pulled back, it was like "Who?" Now Tash brings over her "Words" and everyone thinks that cute little accent makes everything bloody wonderful. And the parade has begun. Along with Ms. Bedingfield, you have Lily Allen, Corinne Bailey Rae, and even the former precocious novelty Joss Stone, who brought along allegations of sex for tracks with producers like Raphael Saadiq. Quite the way to shed that child star label and turn into a sexified chanteuse. There's so much love for British females nowadays that we've even welcomed a British female rapper to Def Jam in the form of Lady Sovereign. Even Dizzee Rascal had to go with independent powerhouse Matador. She gets Def Jam?
Amidst the glut of Anglo females, Amy Winehouse has a sound that makes you want to distinguish her. Her voice is her own but it evokes so many memories of other artists that you have to compare, even though you don't want to. So where does one start? Well upon hearing "Rehab" her first single off her second album (and official American debut) Back To Black, you feel transplanted to late 60s pop, the type that had no choice but to be infused with soul. For some reason, I could imagine Petula Clark singing "Downtown"on the track. It's also apparent once you hear her voice that she was immersed in jazz at some point in her life. Her voice has the ability to switch from light and coy to scalding and caustic between singular notes. Its a raspy alto she wields around like a sledgehammer, which betrays her waifish figure. It has the potential to have weight like Sarah Vaughan's when she uses it just so.
The retro style of the music is courtesy of hip-hop impresario Salaam Remi and everyone's favorite celebrity DJ/producer, Mark Ronson, who continues to have a fascination with the music to which he might have been conceived. Along with Remi, famous for his reggae-tinged productions with The Fugees (yeah them) and Nas ("Made You Look"), they create a time capsule of a musical backdrop for Winehouse to showcase not only her vocal prowess, but a lyrical one as well. This is a very self-aware young woman and she doesn't hide it on record. She's critical of everything including herself and she's got the sailor's mouth to match (lyric "What's with all this fuckery?"). If Corinne Bailey Rae went to school and got drunk at local jazz clubs instead of finding a stable marriage, she and Amy would have been best friends.
I actually surveyed the second before the first which is uncharacteristic of me. I actually enjoyed Frank more. While Black has more of a driving feel, Frank has more of an easy feel to it. Her voice, while still commanding, is a bit more soft. On Frank, she sounds more like a soulful Nellie McKay. It's easier to view her serenading patrons at some downtown bistro even as she belts out the word "fucking".
So that's Ms. Winehouse. Once again my love of all things Jewish has one more faggot to the fire (Not politically insensitive since it is a British post and a used the correct definition of the word, so ha). Now I wish I had one of those sold out tickets.
Tracks 2 Check:
Frank - In My Bed; Stronger Than Me; Pumps; You Send Me Flying
Back To Black - Rehab; You Know I'm No Good; He Can Only Hold Her; Addicted