AMY WINEHOUSE was a special talent, a pop queen that could rub shoulders with hitmakers, be a darling to the music press, and use her tumultuous life to create some of the best songs of the 21st century. Due to her death from alcohol poisoning in 2011, her sophomore album Back to Black has become her defining statement as an artist.

Like other casualties of the sex, drugs, and rock and roll lifestyle, WINEHOUSE’s second and final full-lentgh release has taken on a new significance as not just one of the greatest albums of our time, but an intimate portrait of a woman battling the demons of addiction, and ill-fated love. Like JOY DIVISION’s Closer, Back to Black can’t merely exist as an album. As Closer became a dark vortex of Ian Curtis’ pain, Back to Black has been similarly gone over with a fine tooth comb both by fans, and music press, trying to answer the question: how did this happen? We will never know, so instead let’s look at the legacy of an album that shook the foundations of pop music so successfully in 2006 and 2007, by an artist at the height of her powers.

Back to Black wasn’t so much an album, as it was a confession. Bolstered by the neo-R&B production of Mark Ronson and Salaam Remi, AMY WINEHOUSE used this, and her love of girl groups from the 60s, to lay bare her soul, her addiction to alcohol, and her turbulent relationships, with a mix of style, grace, and humor. If there is one thing that is often overlooked about Back to Black, it’s how funny WINEHOUSE could be. In songs like Rehab, and especially Me & Mr Jones her trademark dry wit is ever present. On what other Grammy winning album will you hear the line ‘What kind of fuckery is this?’ the young lady was an incredibly intelligent songwriter, who else could turn a refusal to get help into a sing-along line: ‘They tried to make me go to rehab but I said no, no, no.’ Yet that’s not all Rehab does: coupled with You Know I’m no Good, the opening of the album shows Amy at her defiant best, at least musically.

It’s when we get to the title track that the album’s true narrative becomes clear. As a song Back to Black isn’t just the album’s centrepiece, it’s also a thematic turning point. In a 2007 edition of Rolling Stone, AMY WINEHOUSE admitted the song and the whole album was about a difficult time in her relationship with then boyfriend Blake Fielder-Civil. Back to Black is when you’ve finished a relationship and you go back to what’s comfortable for you. ‘My ex went back to his girlfriend and I went back to drinking and dark times’ she once explained. That was not the first time Fielder-Civil had left her, and she died every time he did, hence going back to black.


After the title track AMY WINEHOUSE is in a more reflective mood in the beautiful Love is a Losing Game, and the candid Tears Dry on Their Own. Instead of being an impressive collection of songs, Back to Black is the story of Amy, writing what she knew in both romantic, and brutal fashion. Unfortunately this time around her dark times had spiraled out of control and there was no coming back, ultimately leading to her passing.

Even if Back to Black wasn’t her final album, it would still deserve its place as one of the best British albums of the new millennium. Even as it created a slew of copycat acts (remember DUFFY? And ADELE owes a lot to it too) Back to Black is a timeless statement from a truly talented artist.