Mary J. Blige, Joss Stone and Alicia Keys take note: To produce an album that's remarkably fresh, all Amy Winehouse had to do was hire a live band and have Mark Ronson put a retro, '60s girl group/Motown spin on the sound. Nothing is really new, but because contemporary R&B has been so slickly packaged and overproduced, Winehouse's U.S. debut, Back to Black, will resonate immensely. It's exactly not the sound of today, or five years ago, or even ten years ago. It also helps that she's a whippersnapper. In lead single "Rehab," an infectious ode to booze, Winehouse doubts the need for sobriety, something the British tabloids apparently think she lacks. Okay, so a lot of the album is typical young-chick soul fodder -- breakups, tears -- but Winehouse puts a sassy, almost crass spin to things, and essentially, that's her most redeeming quality. At times, she's cocky; at others, very sexual. Instead of reminding us at every point possible of how she got screwed over (though that did happen at a Slick Rick gig), she owns up to her mistakes on "You Know I'm No Good" and "Back to Black." She's confident and convincing even when she's dishing about her shortcomings, and you just can't help but be jealous of her "love me or leave me" attitude. Sure, she owes a lot to the Shangri-La's and the Specials (she thanks 'em both in the liner notes), but it's the devil inside her that makes this such a fun listen.
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