News flash: Universal Island Records just released the late great Amy Winehouse’s new album...
DJBooth Album Review
Wait, just wait.
Before we praise Amy Winehouse as the modern day Ella Fitzgerald, lets not forget to address a glaring problem at hand. Although it is great to remember such a wonderful talent, Lioness: Hidden Treasures doesn’t have much ‘hidden’ about it. Most of the tracks on the album, like Tears Dry, Valerie (68 Version) and The Girl from Ipanema are either remakes of her older songs or covers of classic jazz songs. Don’t get me wrong, the remakes are beautiful and her unbelievable voice on top of any timeless jazz tune still gives me goose bumps; but I just don’t think if Amy Winehouse were alive, she would have been happy with this outcome.
But can you blame her record company? If you had the rights to a guaranteed #1 UK Top 40 album waiting to be released just before Christmas, you’d release it too. The music business is exactly that, a business and everyone needs to make money. But it is hard to ignore that this album is clearly an excuse to cash out on the tails of a great and talented career. From the outside Lioness seems rushed and forced. Another sell out, and another one down.
Back to Black, Winehouse's sophomore album, painted a vivid picture that tore deep into her emotions and life secrets, giving the listener a genuine and passionate connection to her. It showed her imperfections, her anxieties and her insecurities, which everyone can relate to. She was the one artist who you could listen to and feel like she put her heart out on display and held nothing back. This Lioness project definitely lacks that depth and emotion that we had grown to love. However, this is understandable, seeing as she is no longer alive to complete it. It is just unfortunate that after listening the whole way through, I was left feeling incomplete.
But here is where I am torn. The album does have some gems. Some tracks are a fresh change of pace and shed light on a different part of Amy Winehouse that I never heard before. The Nas collaboration Like Smoke is a conversion of jazz, pop and hip-hop that definitely had me pressing rewind. It shocked me how well her vocals worked with Nas’ and it had me wishing she were still around to make some more hip-hop collaborations. When I listened to her original song Halftime, I felt as if I could see her in the studio in another world just consumed by the music around her. And of course you can’t ignore her duet with the legendary Tony Bennett. Anything he touches is gold and their track Body and Soul is no exception.
There are moments like these on the album where you are thankful you had the chance to relieve Winehouse’s greatness. Her talent and voice makes up for the fact that Lioness isn’t really an album, but more like a collection of unfinished business. I can’t decide whether I am upset by the commercialization of Winehouse’s contentious life and career or happy to hear her voice one last time. My theory is that if you already loved Amy Winehouse, which I did, you will be left wanting more. But if you are new to the British vocalist turned legend or only know her by her radio hits, you will love this album because in the end it is great music done by a great artist with great producers.
So for us at The DJBooth, Amy Winehouse cannot be forgotten. Even if you listen to strictly hip-hop, give Amy a listen. Her music is transcendent through any genre and should be appreciated. After all, jazz is one of the founding fathers of hip-hop and Winehouse has helped revitalize the dying genre of music and brought jazz to the forefront of today’s youth. Whether you love her or hate her or don’t care at all about her, pick up a copy of Lioness to decide once and for all what you think of Mrs. Winehouse. The truth is, if she’s worked with legends like Jay-Z, Nas, Tony Bennett and Mark Ronson, sold close to a million albums and counting and has the whole world talking about her untimely death, she definitely did something right.
DJBooth Rating - 3 Spins
Written by Max August on Dec 13, 2011
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