Two years ago (2005), in the middle of the campaign for her universally acclaimed, platinum selling debut Frank, Amy Winehouse began thinking about what shed like to do with her second record. Frank was her grand and suitably blunt-speaking break-up record, sometimes a little bitter, with a maturity in the vocal delivery that was never less than sweet. It won her a battalion of fans around the world and marked her out as one of the most distinct new voices in pop; confessional, elemental and with that rarest of combinations: humour and soul. Amy had cut through to the core of the human condition with her debut, adding her own jazzy witticisms to the legacy of the greats. So how to follow it up?
I didn't want to play the jazz thing up too much again she says now, sitting in the snug of her favourite Camden boozer. Id been listening to a lot of girl-groups from the fifties and sixties. I liked the simplicity of that stuff. It just gets to the point. You can hear it on the subtley Supremes-referencing intro of Back To Black. But her reach stretches further, Amy can break loose with Aretha-style vocal stylings on Just Friends or by turning the whole idea of drying out into a gospel spiritual on the stunning opener Rehab. Which other female British singer could turn the opening line on her album - try to make me go to rehab/I say no, no, no into a churchy stomp.
Armed, as ever, with only her acoustic guitar, a packet of ever-present fags and a bursting imagination, Amy set about distilling her experiences since the arrival of Frank into song. She is one of the most delightful storytellers on the subject of her own inspiration. If I havent done it, I just cant put it into a song. Songwriting for Amy is like keeping a journal. If I didnt have this medium to get my experiences across, I would be lost. Just listen to her heartbreaking metaphors in the sublime Love is a Losing Game. This is classic modern songwriting and delivery; brief, to the point and drenched in emotion.
Amy reunited with Frank producer Salaam Remi in Miami for a whistle-stop recording tour and they found magic once again. Promptly she decamped to New York to work with man of the moment Mark Ronson, managing to book a spare moment between his work on the Lily Allen, Robbie Williams and Christina Aguilera albums. In her three weeks of studio time she found a new soul and direction, one that both channelled the girl groups of her fancy but placed them slap bang into the middle of modernity. Im not quite sure how the record turned out to sound so complete but I knew that when I decided to record it in a couple of weeks I wanted it to sound like it had been.
Biography by Island Records