Back to Black
Mary J., Joss Stone, Alicia Keys, take note: All Amy Winehouse did was hire a live band and have Mark Ronson put a retro, '60s girl-group/Motown spin on the sound to produce an album that's remarkably fresh. Nothing is really new, but because contemporary R&B has been so slickly packaged, so overproduced, Winehouse's U.S. debut, Back to Black, will resonate immensely because it's exactly not the sound of today, or five years ago, or 10 years ago.
It helps that she's a whippersnapper herself. Lead single "Rehab" is an infectious ode to booze, doubting the need for sobriety, the thing she had apparently been told by British tabloids that she lacked. Okay, so a lot of the album is typical young-chick soul fodder—breakups, tears shed—but Winehouse puts a sassy, almost crass spin on things. 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 one such occurrence happened 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 her shortcomings, a "love it or leave it" attitude that you can't help but envy. Sure, she owes a lot to the Shangri-La's and the Specials (she thanks 'em both in the liner notes), but if you dig a bit deeper, it's the devil inside her that makes this album such a fun listen.