In case you hadn’t heard, troubled Pop/R&B star Amy Winehouse was found dead earlier today. The five time Grammy winner, and artist behind one of the biggest selling albums in the past few years saddened her fans and family today with this tragic news. As of now the cause of death is being investigated, but it seems obvious that this was an unfortunate case of excessive drugs and alcohol. Winehouse became popular in 2007 for that award winning album “Back to Black”, but also because of her battles with addiction. She became tabloid fodder and seemed to get more notoriety for her public fights with her husband or her booze infused performances. Which is why to me, her death isn’t surprising.
On a positive note first, Winehouse did make a big mark on the industry with “Back to Black”. That Mark Ronson produced album was the exception in an industry that was going younger, faster and more catchy with their music. Her music was more lyric based, definitely an homage to the 60’s soul sound, and her voice was unique. It was strong, though also really gritty and able to convey to right amount of emotion and attitude. In an industry that was filled with faceless pop acts with no personality, she was definitely a total contrast that was majorly needed at the time. She was able to do what most artists would dream by achieving the commercial and critical praise by doing what she loved and what felt natural to her without seeming to compromise.
The negative for me was that a lot of the attention that was brought to her music was from her drunken and drug riddled behavior. She became a tabloid favorite because of the whole “trainwreck” thing the media loves to exploit. It’s a good thing that ultimately people did recognize her artistry and were able to look past that and enjoy the music, but it’s not real revelation that her “troubled singer” image helped her music break through to the mainstream. While I enjoyed her music, I felt like other artists who were just as talented (Joss Stone, at the time Adele, Raphael Saadiq) and had a similar style were ignored because they weren’t bringing in the headlines unrelated to music that Winehouse was.
Now with her death, her catalog will surely see a spike in sales. It’s sad that she’s gone because of the simple fact that she was talented, and it would have been interesting to see where her career would have ended up. And how her music would have evolved if she had gotten better. Unfortunately she hadn’t been getting better, just this past June she was boo’d off stage at a show for mumbling through songs and stumbling drunkenly on stage. The saddest thing is, and this is what a lot of tweets and celebs have said in response to her death, her death is just a waste of talent.
Personally my deal is, and I’ve gotten in a few internet arguments over this already, I don’t really sympathize when an addict overdoses. Because to me, it’s a risk you’re taking with your life. Addictions are understandably hard to get over, but people have and do everyday. It’s no real excuse to me to say “addiction is a disease and I’m completely helpless to the drugs”, you just have to know what’s important in life, and try to value that life and do whatever you can to not put it in jeopardy. I feel like people who overdose just gave up on life, and when you have the fame and love from fans and critics it’s almost like you’ve taken all of that for granted and your next high was more important than all of that.
Winehouse will be missed though, it’s interesting to think where her career would have headed (and if her label will try to push “unreleased” material from her for sales). Still, her unique voice and realness made big mark on the industry with “Back to Black”, hopefully it’s her voice and her timeless songs that will be remembered, and not negative media exposure. Either way she’ll just go down in a long legacy of artists whose time came too soon.