It’s 9 ‘o clock on Sunday night and I’m listening to the soft, sultry swing of a ghost—the iconic music that she left behind. I’m lying in bed and taking my first bite of Amy Winehouse’s latest—and last—album, “Lioness: Hidden Treasures.”
Before now, I’ve never listened to an Amy Winehouse song in my life. In fact, the first time I heard much of anything about her was after her unexpected passing in July of this year. All I knew about Winehouse was that she had big, poofy hair, wore strange Egyptian-style make-up, and her albums are labeled as “pop.”
Living in the era of Lady Gaga and Rihanna, “pop” means two things to me—repetitive lyrics (probably about partying or something close to partying) and an incessant techno beat. So, when I downloaded “Lioness: Hidden Treasures,” plugged my iPod into my speakers, and waited for the first song, I was expecting much the same.
Instead, I was met with a smooth 60’s style jazz—with a few streaks of typical “pop” blended in.
The first song, a track titled “Our Day Will Come,” is a cheerful, romantic-afternoon-in-the-sun sort of number, complete with background “oo”s and “ahh”s. It sets the mood for a relaxing trip through jazzy cymbals and background harps.
Winehouse’s vocals are simple, with a gravelly tone that reminds me a bit of Adele. Her range is strong and she knows her genre well—she can slur and trill and be-bop ‘till kingdom comes. She’s got a great, soothing voice, but her jazzy slurs make some of her words almost impossible to understand.
In one of the songs, “Between the Cheats,” the opening line sounds like “I woll dye befo’ devorja, I’d take a fowl shun shumps allwoah myla.” In reality, the lyrics are “I would die before divorce you, I’d take a thousand thumps for my love.” Yeah. It’s pretty bad. I understand trying to add style, but there’s a fine line between “style” and going nuts with the vowels.
It’s a shame, because, if you look up the lyrics—which you have to, if you want to have any idea of what Winehouse is saying—they’re actually pretty poetic. Too bad they get lost behind “allwoah”s and poor annunciation.
But, OK, OK. I’m being a picky choir kid. Bad consonant usage aside, the album has some really nice sound—the kind of sound that makes you want to get up and sway back and forth with your eyes closed. It’s relaxing and fun, with some classy guitar and trumpets, ones that remind me of old-time Chicago—“Does Anybody Really Know What Time It Is?” and all that jazz (literally).
Plain and simply, Winehouse does a wonderful job of bringing an old style of music into a pop genre. Part of this she does by appealing to teenagers—I mean, what hopeless romantic girl isn’t going to love a song called, “Will You Still Love Me Tomorrow?”
But another part Winehouse brings through pure musical talent. The songs are upbeat but soft. They’re the kind of music you can listen to any time of day: going to bed or waking up, getting ready for a dance or when you’re on the ballroom floor.
Winehouse throws rappers in “Like Smoke (feat. Nas)”. She throws a tambourine into “Valerie,” a jumpy number that I quickly picked as my favorite on the album. She throws be-bop into “The Girl from Ipanema” and manages to make it sound decent, if not initially surprising. She throws Tony Bennett into “Body and Soul,” a pleasant duet with extra additions of piano and violins.
In spite of lazy lyrics, there is a lot of enjoyment that can be had from “Lioness: Hidden Treasures.” Each song has a little something extra that adds to the overall entertainment, and Winehouse’s devotion to her music is evident in every chord.
It’s been five months since Winehouse’s death, at the age of 27, which led to police investigation and music headlines across the nations. Since then, artists from everywhere have sung tributes and delivered speeches— U2, Lady Gaga, Nicki Minaj, Rihanna, Adele, Kelly Clarkson, Courtney Love, and more. Friends and family have started the Amy Winehouse Foundation, a charity set out to help youth in need of rehabilitation and aid.
The artist is no longer with us, but “Lioness: Hidden Treasures” captures Winehouse’s talent and passion in a way that no obituary ever will.
By Lauren Puckett