Sky-high beehive hairdos and black exaggerated cat-eye liner were her signature look. And that sound? Flawlessly classic, but with a modern twist of a woman scorned. Amy Winehouse was such a solid artist. Take away the drugs, alcohol and whatever other vices she indulged in and you have a hauntingly soulful voice, catchy doo-wop-esque melodies and potent lyrics–all the makings of a legendary songstress.
I first discovered Amy Winehouse in 2006 while listening to one of my favorite stations on Pandora–Madeleine Peyroux. Her voice instantly caught my attention and I had to know how she was. I found her albums Frank and the Grammy-winning Back to Black and was hooked on her insanely insightful lyrics and Billie Holiday-laced voice. I had no idea that she would share so many similarities to the late, tortured jazz songbird. She’d been ostracized by the media and Amy still kept a don’t care attitude that was all too apparent in her provoked and often callus lyrics. During her short life, Amy managed to develop a small, yet palpable catalogue. Check out a few of her standout lyrics and what they mean.
“You Sent Me Flying” on Frank
And although he is nothing in the scheme of my years
It just serves to bludgeon my futile tears
And I’m not use to this, I observe, I don’t chase
So now I’m stuck with consequences, thrust in my face
And the melodramas of my day delivery blows
That surpass your rejection it just goes to show
A simple attraction that reflects right back to me
So I’m not as into you as I appear to be
Nine times out of time, women do not chase. Amy mentions how uncomfortable she feels crushing on this man she works with–doing little things for him like letting him borrow her Outsidaz and Erykah Badu CD’s, letting him bum smokes without limit and she wonders the entire time if he knows how she feels. He knows and he rejects her, but in the end, Amy realizes she doesn’t like him as much as she thought anyway.
“Love Is Blind” on Frank
How can I put it so you understand?
I didn’t let him hold my hand
But he looked like you; I guess he looked like you
No he wasn’t you
But you can still trust me, this ain’t infidelity
It’s not cheating; you were on my mind
Folks will come up with justification for their infidelities and Amy lets us into the mind of a cheater. Telling your boyfriend that the man you cheated with looks just like him isn’t the best thing in the world to do–it’s actually a knife in the chest. Amy then goes on to let him know that she didn’t share any real intimacy with the lookalike, so he should trust her. She drives the insult on home by insisting that the entire time, her man was on her mind. The song, although evil to the core comes off very naive–as if she believes her own justifications.
“In My Bed” on Frank
Now it’s not hard to understand
Why we just speak at night
The only time I hold your hand
Is to get the angle right
Everything is slowing down
River of no return
You recognize my every sound
There’s nothing new to learn
There should always be ground rules set with booty calls. In this tune, Amy pretty much does just that. She is trying to let the old booty call know that he pretty much has no other place in her life, but her bed. Apparently, he’s tried to move from romping in the sheets to full blown relationship, so she let him know that her moans are pretty much the only thing he should be paying attention to and should make no effort to learn anything outside of that.
“What Is It About Men” on Frank
Understand once he was a family man
So surely I would never, ever go through it first hand
Emulate all the shit my mother hated
I can’t help but demonstrate my Freudian fate
My alibi for taking your guy
History repeats itself, it fails to die
And animal aggression is my downfall
I don’t care ’bout what you got I wanted all
One can only assume that Amy’s reference to her Freudian fate refers to an Oedipus complex, but it’s not that she wants to be with her father, but moreso imitate his deceitful ways. Amy’s carnal instincts take over her good judgment and she goes against everything her mother hated in her father and goes for a family (more than likely married with kids) man. She doesn’t care about anything else, she wants it all from him, which he more than likely couldn’t give her, making her want to know, “What is it about men?”
“He Can Only Hold Her” on Back to Black
She’s so vacant her soul is taken
He thinks “What’s she running from?”
Now, how can he have her heart
When it got stole
So he tries to pacify her
Because whats inside her never dies
Even if she’s content in his warmth
She is plagued with urgency
The man she misses,
The man that he longs to be
This is an issue that most women face when trying to start over with someone new after a heartbreak. We’re preoccupied by not getting hurt that we can’t see whether or not a good man is in front of us. The woman looks within their intimate moments for traces of the one that got away that still has her heart (because sometimes we secretly like being reminded of a past love), while this new guy wants so badly to be the man for her.
“Wake Up Alone” on Back to Black
This face in my dreams seizes my guts
He floods me with dread
Soaked in soul
He swims in my eyes by the bed
Pour myself over him
Moon spilling in
And I wake up alone
Loneliness is a battle and when you’re used to being with someone during all your waking moments and even when you lay down to sleep and they’re not there anymore, it takes a lot of adjusting. Amy chronicles that time right after a breakup, when you’re trying not to think of the person by keeping busy, but when night time comes, so do thr thoughts of said person. He invades her mind and therefore her dreams–causing her to think he’s right there with her gain, but then she wakes up…alone.
“Just Friends” on Back to Black
And no I’m not ashamed but the guilt will kill you
If she don’t first
I’ll never love you like her
Though we need to find the time
To just do this shit together
For it gets worse
I wanna touch you
But that just hurts
There are times when a friendship can blossom into a relationship or at least friends with benefits and it can either be the best thing ever, or a complete disaster. In this case, these friends have crossed the line and there’s a girlfriend involved and Amy’s guilt is causing her to want to no longer continue the relationship and go back to their friendship, but it seems quite impossible.
“Back to Black” on Back to Black
He left no time to regret
Kept his dick wet
With his same old safe bet
Me and my head high
And my tears dry
Get on without my guy
You went back to what you knew
So far removed from all that we went through
And I tread a troubled track
My odds are stacked
I’ll go back to black
Failed relationships because of infidelity can be soul crushing, driving some to indulge in vices. Amy’s main vices are drugs and alcohol and because he’s managed to already move on to someone that he probably cheated on her with, she was able to keep her head up, but the addiction got the best of her, causing her to get lost in her own blackouts.
We’ve certainly lost yet another amazing talent in gifted and rebellious Amy Winehouse, whose writing skills were poetically powerful, raw and unmatched.