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Back to Black
A lot or a little?
The parents' guide to what's in this music.
What parents need to know
Parents need to know that Amy Winehouse is one of the most gifted soul singers to come along in years, with a fantastic voice and loads of songwriting talent. But that gift lives within a person who, if the songs are indeed autobiographical as she claims, loves to abuse alcohol, weed, and men. The lyrics are deceptively vulgar at times, but that strike against her isn't enough to outweigh the fact that this is a phenomenal album of classic soul music.
- Parents say
- Kids say
What's the story?
Listeners of BACK TO BLACK may at first think they've come across some re-released oldies from the Motown canon, mixed in with a few hip-hop influenced songs. Amy Winehouse's voice ranges from sweet to husky, and the production from Salaam Remi and Mark Ronson is wonderfully retro -- full of horn stabs, jazz guitar riffs, piano arpeggios, and classic doo-wop harmonies. Additional listens unveil a remarkably layered personality and songwriting palate. Winehouse shows off a disarmingly tart tongue, brutally dishing out abuse to the other sex, as on "Me & Mr. Jones," which employs the rarely used profanity, "F--kery." She recounts her adulterous transgressions with self-deprecating wit on "You Know I'm No Good," which features a cameo rap verse by Ghostface Killah.
Is it any good?
Like many great albums -- and this is the best soul record to come out since 1998's Miseducation of Lauryn Hill -- Amy Winehouse's Back to Black gets better with each play. As you dig deeper into the songs, you'll see a woman who is deep, self-aware, and even devoted at times. This CD has it all: soul-drenched jazz and funk music, a dynamic voice, and well-written songs. It couldn't come any more highly recommended.
Talk to your kids about ...
Families can talk about Winehouse's various views on love, from scorned and adulterous to vigorously loyal. But most of all, Winehouse offers a nearly transparent view into the psyche of someone who imbibes in more than her fair share of alcohol and pot. These songs show a woman perfectly aware of her vices but unwilling to change. There's a lifetime's worth of conversations in that subject matter: Is experimentation with alcohol and pot at a certain age okay? What does drinking responsibly mean? How do you know when it's a problem?