English singer-songwriter Amy Jade Winehouse is known for her eclectic mix of various musical genres including R&B, soul, jazz, rock & roll, and ska. She is best known for her soulful, powerful contralto vocals.
In contrast to her jazz-influenced former album, Winehouse’s focus shifted to the girl groups of the 1950s and 1960s. In an interview, Winehouse explained, “After Frank I didn’t write for 18 months but when I met Mark [Ronson] I pretty much wrote the album in six months—he was so inspiring.” Winehouse hired New York singer Sharon Jones’s longtime band, the Dap-Kings to back her up in the studio and on tour. In May 2006, Winehouse’s demonstration tracks such as “You Know I’m No Good” and “Rehab” appeared on Mark Ronson’s New York radio show on East Village Radio. These were some of the first new songs played on the radio after the release of “Pumps” and both were slated to appear on her second album. The 11-track album was produced entirely by Salaam Remi and Ronson, with the production credits being split between them. Promotion of Back to Black soon began, and in early October 2006, Winehouse’s official website was re-launched with a new layout and clips of previously unreleased songs.
Back to Black was released in the UK on 30 October 2006. It went to number one on the UK Albums Chart numerous times, and entered at number seven on the Billboard 200 in the United States. By 25 October, the album was approaching 5x platinum in the UK, making it the best-selling album of 2007.
The album spawned a number of singles. The first single released from the album on 23 October 2006 was the Ronson-produced “Rehab”. The song was a number-seven single in the UK, “Rehab” peaked at number nine on the Billboard Hot 100 the week of 21 June, shortly after a performance of it on the 2007 MTV Movie Awards. Time magazine named “Rehab” one of the 10 Best Songs of 2007, ranking it at number one. Writer Josh Tyrangiel praised Winehouse for her confidence, opining, “What she is mouthy, funny, sultry, and quite possibly crazy” and, “It’s impossible not to be seduced by her originality. Combine it with production by Mark Ronson that references four decades worth of soul music without once ripping it off, and you’ve got the best song of 2007.” Also in 2007 Jay Z remixed the song by adding new verses.
The album’s second single, “You Know I’m No Good” was released on 8 January 2007 with a remix featuring rap vocals by Ghostface Killah. It ultimately reached number 18 on the UK singles chart. Back to Black was released in the United States in March 2007, with “You Know I’m No Good” as its lead single. The title track, “Back to Black”, was released in the UK on 30 April 2007 and peaked at number 25. A deluxe edition of Back to Black was also released on 5 November 2007 in the UK. The bonus disc features B-sides, rare, and live tracks, as well as “Valerie”. Winehouse’s debut DVD I Told You I Was Trouble: Live in London was released the same day in the U.K. and 13 November in the U.S. It includes a live set recorded at London’s Shepherds Bush Empire and a 50-minute documentary charting the singer’s career over the previous four years. On 10 December 2007, the final single from Back to Black, “Love Is a Losing Game”, was released in the United Kingdom and U.S.
Frank was released in the United States on 20 November 2007 to positive reviews. The album debuted at number 61 on the Billboard 200 chart.
Winehouse’s tour, however, did not go as well. In November 2007, the opening night of a 17-date tour was marred by booing and walkouts at the National Indoor Arena in Birmingham. A music critic for the Birmingham Mail said it was “one of the saddest nights of my life…I saw a supremely talented artist reduced to tears, stumbling around the stage and, unforgivably, swearing at the audience.” Other concerts ended similarly, until she announced on 27 November 2007, that her performances and public appearances were cancelled for the remainder of 2007, citing doctor advice to take a complete rest. A statement issued by concert promoter Live Nation blamed “the rigours involved in touring and the intense emotional strain that Amy has been under in recent weeks” for the decision.
In addition to her own album, she has collaborated with other artists on singles. Winehouse was a vocalist on the song “Valerie” on Ronson’s solo album Version. The song peaked at number two in the UK, upon its October single release. The song was nominated for a 2008 Brit Award for “Best British Single”. Her work with ex-Sugababe Mutya Buena, “B Boy Baby,” was released on 17 December 2007. It served as the fourth single from Buena’s solo debut album Real Girl.
Performing at Eurockéennes 2007
By year’s end, Winehouse had garnered numerous accolades and awards. The singer won 2008 Grammy Awards in the categories of Record of the Year, Song of the Year, and Best Female Pop Vocal Performance for the single “Rehab”, while her album Back to Black was nominated for Album of the Year and won the Best Pop Vocal Album award. Producer Mark Ronson’s work with her won the award in the Producer of the Year Non-Classical category. The singer also earned a Grammy in the ‘Best New Artist’ category. This earned Winehouse an entry in the 2009 edition of the Guinness Book of World Records for Most Grammy Awards won by a British Female Act. She performed “You Know I’m No Good” and “Rehab” at the awards ceremony on 10 February 2008 via satellite, as her visa approval came through too late for her to travel to the U.S. She said “This is for London because Camden town is burning down,” in reference to the Camden Market fire. The nominations, announced in early December, led to a 48 percent increase in the sales of Back to Black in the United States. Post Grammy Awards, album sales increased by 368 percent over the prior week, to the number 2 position in the United States.
On 13 January 2008, Back to Black held the number one position on the Billboard Pan European charts for the third straight week. In January 2008, Universal Music International said it believed that there was a correlation between number of albums sold and the extensive media coverage the singer had received.
On 20 February 2008, Winehouse performed at the 2008 BRIT Awards, performing “Valerie” with Mark Ronson, followed by “Love Is a Losing Game”. She urged the crowd to “make some noise for my Blake.”
A special deluxe edition of “Back to Black” topped the UK album charts on 2 March 2008. The original edition of the album resided at the number 30 position, in its 68th week on the charts, while “Frank” charted at number 35. By 12 March, the album had sold a total of 2,467,575 copies, 318,350 of those in the previous 10 weeks, putting the album on the UK’s top 10 best-selling albums of the 21st century for the first time. On 7 April, “Back to Black” was residing at the top position on the pan-European charts for the sixth consecutive and thirteenth aggregate week.
In Paris, she performed what was described as a “well-executed 40 minute” set at the opening of a Fendi boutique.
Back to Black was the world’s seventh biggest selling album for 2008. These sales helped keep Universal Music’s recorded music division from dropping to levels experienced by the overall music market.
At the 2008 Ivor Novello Awards, Winehouse became the first artist to receive two nominations for the top award, best song, musically and lyrically. She won the award for “Love Is a Losing Game” and was nominated for “You Know I’m No Good”. “Rehab”, a Novello winner for best contemporary song in 2006, also received a 2008 nomination for bestselling British song. Winehouse was nominated for a MTV Europe Award in the Act of The Year category.
Amy Winehouse – The Girl Done Good: A Documentary Review a 78 minute DVD was released on 14 April 2008. The documentary features interviews with those who knew her at a young age, helped her gain success, jazz music experts, as well as music and pop culture specialists.
Winehouse’s “Valerie” is on a three disc 60 song compilation album entitled Now That’s What I Call Music 25 Years, released in October 2008.
A clip of Winehouse’s music is included in the “Roots and Influences” area that looks at connections between different artists at the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame Annex NYC, which opened in December 2008. One thread starts with Billie Holiday continues with Aretha Franklin, Mary J. Blige and finishes with Winehouse.
In a poll of United States residents conducted for VisitBritain by Harris Interactive that was released in March 2009, one fifth of those polled indicated they had listened to Winehouse’s music during the previous year.