It's been two days since the news of Amy Winehouse's death, and I'm still trying to wrap my head around it all. While Twitter and Facebook feeds filled with appreciations and ugly jokes (did you hear the one about "Rehab"?), I returned to Back to Black, her second and best album, to remember the gifted and troubled singer.
With celebrity and addiction, the public loves to try its best Dr. Drew impression and dissect the inner-workings of troubled stars. Amy's case was even more rare — she wasn't an heiress or even a marginal talent; she possessed one of the most unforgettable voices of her generation. Her ability to pack songs with raw emotion, biting sarcasm, intelligence and that beehived swagger made each piece of confessional songwriting worth dropping everything for. Details of Amy's death will emerge in the coming days, weeks and months, but the significance will be minimal. The public has already written her autopsy — C.O.D.: drugs — and even if it turns out otherwise, many will still point to Amy's addiction as the root.
Amy's personal issues, despite playing out in front of the insatiable celebrity media circus, were hers alone. There will be theories but we'll never truly know why drugs became so important to Amy. I was always waiting, hoping for the return of Amy Winehouse — a new stunning album, new sold-out tour, new something. That's selfish, but that's what being a fan is, too.
After I graduated college in 2008, I went backpacking across Europe. The trip was wonderful, and it was even better to share with a close, college roommate. But as travelers know, there's downtime — books are started, naps are taken, chess games are attempted. Perhaps most importantly, your iPod becomes your other companion, and for my trip, Back to Black was the album I played most. "Rehab" was the perfect smash hit, but the other tracks were even more enriching. "Me & Mr. Jones," "You Know I'm No Good," "Tears Dry on Their Alone" are near-perfect pop songs — something that was nice to be reminded of recently. The singers with the nuanced voices — the ones that could send a chill to your spine or make you cry without warning — make you want to talk to them face to face, even if only for a fleeting moment. Amy was no different, and now that opportunity is merely fantasy. The only gateway we have inside her troubled, gifted mind is the same one we had while she was here — her voice, her songs, the music. Her death is a tragedy, but having something tangible, and not to mention beautiful, to hold on to makes me grateful, and even happy, if only for a moment.