As a tribute to the late but great Amy Winehouse I have taken it upon myself to dig through her regrettably short discography and chose her ten greatest moments. While there may not be much material to sort through, it is still no simple task as Winehouse has made some truly spectacular music in her short time here, from her impressive debut Frank to her air-tight follow-up Back To Black.
10. “You Sent Me Flying”
One of the highlights of her debut album, “You Sent Me Flying” is essentially Winehouse rambling with some guitars before reaching a soulful breakdown part way through, but it’s that nonchalant casualness that makes this song so exciting. Well that and the excellent chorus.
9. “In My Bed”
Despite being her most “mainstream” sounding single, it still hosted some of her trademark sexually charged lyrics (“The only time I hold your hand/Is to get the angle right“). Plus the hooks on the chorus are so addictive you’ll find yourself singing along to it all day.
8. “You Know I’m No Good”
Back To Black’s second single continued to build on Winehouse’s bad girl image. The song uses very specific imagery that almost eliminates the need for a music video because you can picture the whole in your head. It is also producer Mark Ronson’s best fusion of hip-hop and retro soul.
7. “Love Is A Losing Game”
It is often the simplest realizations that are the most heartbreaking, and “Love Is a Losing Game” is a perfect example. Winehouse could have made this a power ballad of epic proportions, but that was never really her style; Winehouse prefered subtle, slow-burning heartbreak. Making the tragic ballad all the more painfully beautiful.
The song that defies her career. While not her best song it is indeed her most essential. Without “Rehab” and its bold refusal to get help, it’s hard to imagine Winehouse being a household name. I can still remember how exciting and refreshing this song was back in 2007 when it managed to charm this side of the Atlantic similar as to how it charmed Europe the year before. It definitely deserved all of the commercial and critical success it brought her.
5. “F**k Me Pumps”
This sassy little number is Winehouse at her most playful. The expertly crafted single is a charming and cheeky tale of a washed up party girl who desperately tries to find the tall, handsome, and rich man of her dreams who never amounts to anything more than a one night stand. This is some truly brilliant songwriting.
4. “Valerie”, Mark Ronson featuring Amy Winehouse
“Valerie” is so happy-go-lucky that it’s impossible not to adore. Winehouse may have never sounded as infectious as she does here. Ronson wasn’t kidding when he said Winehouse was his “musical soul mate”. It’s also a rare example of a cover surpassing its original.
3. “Wake Up Alone”
Perhaps her best moment as a songwriter, as she expertly crafts a portrait of a woman dealing with the loneliness that is the aftermath of a difficult break-up. The actual song itself is hands down the most haunting song in her repertoire, from its morbid lyrics to the ghostly back-up vocals.
2. “Back To Black”
Quite simply her saddest song. Winehouse’s tragic masterpiece is the exact moment where you can hear her heart-break into a million pieces, from the moody melody, to her ex’s preference of cocaine to her, and that voice. Wineouse may have never written a better hook than “we only said goodbye with words/I died a hundred times”.
1. “Tears Dry On Their Own”
Winehouse and her team must have known they had something truly special when they decided to sample Marvin Gaye’s classic “Ain’t No Mountain High Enough”. Those are some seriously big shoes to fill and “Tears Dry” fits them snuggly. While a magnificent song on its own, it is at its most effective when taken into context with the rest of the album. It is with this song that Winehouse finds her inner strengthen and bravely declares:
” Shouldn’t play myself again,
I should be my own best friend,
Not fuck myself in the head with stupid men”
For an artist who was so good at making darker music, it might come as a surprise that I find her strongest offering to be her most upbeat and empowering. It could be because she does self-help in a way others do, by refusing to glorify her own flaws and missteps. She isn’t looking to be liked or saved (a point made quite obvious from the above verse), she isn’t even promising that she’ll be okay in the long run, but for now she’ll be just fine by herself, doubters be damned.