May 10, 2007


Disillusioned Diva With Glimmers of Soul (JON PARELES, 5/10/07, NY Times)

Amy Winehouse is a tease. The songs on her second album, “Back to Black” (Universal Republic), revive the sound of 1960s and 1970s soul with tales of plunging into temptation and toughing out the consequences. She drinks, she cheats, she falls for the wrong guys, she cries; she refuses rehab with a magnificently simple refrain, “I said no, no, no.”

But the way she delivers those songs is far less forthright. At the Highline Ballroom on Tuesday night, she treated them with a shifting blend of casualness and concentration, arbitrary improvisation and precise inflections. She connected with the songs only intermittently, though when she did, she made a listener want more. [...]

Ms. Winehouse has grown up on hip-hop’s version of R&B, which chops the old dramatic arcs of soul and gospel into sound-bite hooks and showy, almost randomly applied slides and turns. Her voice glints with possibility: tart, smoky, ready to flirt or sob, and capable of the jazzy timing of a Dinah Washington or the declamation of soul singers like Martha Reeves and Carla Thomas. What she doesn’t have, and may not want, is the kind of focus the older singers brought to their songs. Onstage Ms. Winehouse added a British layer of detachment with a performance that switched between confession and indifference.

Posted by Orrin Judd at May 10, 2007 6:55 AM
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