Saturday, July 23, 2011

Amy Winehouse— A Fallen Tortured Angel.

All of us here at UPBEAT Entertainment News Syndicate have been putting off making reports or statements about what we all feel is yet another completely unnecessary tragedy, one that especially touches all of our editors overseas. Singer/Songwriter Amy Winehouse was found dead yesterday ­afternoon after a suspected drink and drugs binge at the age of just 27. The troubled star— who has spent years battling heroin and alcohol addiction— collapsed at her flat in North London. Friends called an ambulance ­immediately but she died before help arrived. One friend said she had been taking ecstasy but everything at this point will be “speculation” and the truth may never be fully revealed.

We are 900% certain that there will be a tabloid ONSLAUGHT of stories and angered people feeling that Amy was completely at fault and that she’s just another footnote in a long line of tortured singers… Kurt Cobain, Jimi Hendrix, Jim Morrison, Janis Joplin… all of which mysteriously died at almost the exact same age. But you see, these creative geniuses all had inner demons prior to their inevitable demise. It’s easy to make a “blanket statement” about an entertainer and place the weight of the world onto their shoulders, saying that they should “know better” or that they should always “be more responsible”— that they are OBLIGATED to be “role models”.

I’m just going to say it. All of those blanket statements are BULLSHIT. These people are NOT obligated to raise your children in any way shape or form. They did not sign on to make sure that they were “good enough” to guide ANY of their fans. They were all human beings… flawed as we all are. The creative mind is not made to withstand the massive waves upon waves of pressure inspired by GREED [a word that I will use quite a bit as it applies].

Most of the artists I mentioned, including Amy Winehouse, essentially were bled dry by agents, managers, major record labels, a entourage of “hanger-ons”… none of which could ever sincerely say that they cared about these performers. Don’t kid yourself. It is always about the money. And to the big corporate machines that control media, entertainment and everything in between are nothing more than greedy soulless bastards accustomed to discovering rare talents and then placing more than enough tensions and demands on them to push every last one off of the cliff and into the abyss. And the money just keeps rolling into the pockets of the suits, executives, managers, publicists and a sleuth of leaches who hang onto the rotting corpses without even a moment of remorse.

All of the talented artists/performers I mentioned are still money machines. You see, once someone like Amy Winehouse passes on, her music becomes priceless. She is “re-branded”, “repackaged” and her album sales skyrocket and then… demos are found, bootlegs are “magically” discovered, recording sessions and concerts that were ALL captured on camera find their way onto DVD and Bluray… and we cannot help but want to cling to some piece of these gifted artists… so we buy everything that the snake oil salesmen are peddling... but none of it will ever reveal the pain behind the artists who are merely numbers and dollar signs.

As a tribute to Amy, we decided to post an interview with Amy conducted by Mark Gatty Saunt [Captain Caveman] and myself. Words cannot describe how truly disappointed and saddened we are right now. When our interview was conducted [in 2008], Amy was on top of her game… or so it seemed. But as journalists and human beings, we sensed that perhaps she was merely meeting her contractual obligations.

Amy Winehouse— A Fallen Tortured Angel.  

by Mark Gatty Saunt and Bridget Petrella (originally published in 2008)

UPBEAT Entertainment News Syndicate’s Original Interview

As a journalist, I will openly admit to anyone who will listen to me… I am hooked on Amy Winehouse. The music, the personality, the “I don’t give a shit” tattoos. Stale cigars, and bluesy night clubs. Thin bird like solo guitar players belting out their sorrow for a bottle of bathtub gin in somewhere New Orleans… before it was destroyed by the upper class college punks… before the flood. Darkness. A lone blue light floats down like dust from center stage. The ghost of Billie Holiday shimmers out the rear exit into a black sedan to chase the next fix. The band starts out soft, slow. Jazz cut by Motown tinged in Blues. All eyes leave their drinks. Amy Winehouse takes the stage. Perhaps in a black velvet sequined dress…perhaps in a pair of torn blue jeans… Fresh from her triumphant performance at the Brits where she picked up the British Female Solo Artist award, Amy Winehouse has had her much anticipated new single, ”Back To Black”, released on April 16th through Island Records.

The single is the title track from Amy’s stunning album “Back To Black”, which this week re-gained the number 1 slot, and looks set to go triple— platinum in a matter of weeks with sales fast approaching the 900,000 mark. It’s been a fantastic few years for Amy since the release, at the end of October 2006… of her anthemic single “Rehab”. “Rehab” entered the chart at number 7 and was quickly followed by “Back To Black” which was released to universal acclaim and finished the year topping many end of year polls. A second single, “You Know I’m No Good”, featuring Ghostface Killah, was released in January and gave Amy her second big hit. Two Brit nominations, a South Bank Show award and an Elle Style award followed before Amy scooped the British Best Female last week at Earl’s Court. Amy’s live shows feature songs drawn from her platinum debut “Frank” and “Back To Black” which she wrote from her own experiences.

“Frank” established Amy Winehouse as one of the most exciting and challenging artists in pop music, and “Back To Black” merely proves, beyond any reasonable or unreasonable doubt, what a truly remarkable talent she is. Winehouse’s song-writing and fearlessness as a lyric writer has been grafted and infused onto some of the most astonishing material in her short career thus far. “Back To Black” sees her teaming up once again with “Frank” producer Salaam Remi and, for the first time, with New Yorker Mark Ronson (Lily Allen, Robbie Williams and Christina Aguilera).

Following the ongoing success of “Frank”, Amy began thinking about what she’d like to do with her second record. “Frank” was her grand and suitably blunt-speaking break-up record, and it won her a battalion of fans around the world, marking  her out as one of the most distinctive new voices in pop; confessional, elemental and with that most rare of combinations: humor and soul. “I didn’t want to play the jazz thing up too much again. I was bored of complicated chord structures and needed something more direct. I’d been listening to a lot of girl-groups from the fifties and sixties. I liked the simplicity of that stuff. It just gets to the point.” You can hear it on the subtlety Supremes-referencing intro of “Back To Black”.

While the girl-groups of the sixties to which she had become enthralled contained their vocals, Amy can break loose with Aretha-style vocal stylings on “Just Friends” or by turning the whole idea of drying out into a gospel spiritual on the stunning opener “Rehab”. “Love is a Losing Game” is pure classic modern song-writing: brief, to the point and drenched in emotion. Other profound highlights  include the Nas inspired “Me and Mr. Jones”,  the positively beautiful  “Wake Up Alone”, “I’m No Good”, the personal epiphany that you can behave just as badly as all of those atypical bad boys that have messed you around and stamped all over you without bothering to care...  and the bluesy cool of the title track, “Back To Black”.

February of 2008 saw Amy Winehouse duly honored with 5 of the US Recording Academy’s most prestigious awards: Best Pop Vocal Album, Best Female Pop Vocal Performance, Best New Artist, Song of the Year (Rehab) and Record of the Year (Rehab) at the 50th Annual Grammy Awards held in Los Angeles. This incredible haul made Amy the first ever British female artist to win 5 Grammys in one night and saw her join Lauryn Hill (in 1998), Alicia Keys (in 2001), Norah Jones (in 2002) and Beyonce (in 2003) in the elite group of female artists who have won 5 awards in just one evening. The Grammys had capped off a remarkable 18 months for this hugely talented and unique artist.

During that time “Back To Black”, her second album (and the biggest selling UK album of 2007), sold over 5 million copies worldwide and turned Amy into one of the hottest stars in the world. The critical response to the record has been every bit as impressive and in addition to the Grammy’s Amy has picked up a series of awards including a Brit, South Bank Show Award, Ivor Novello, Mojo, Glamour, Elle Style Award, Mobo, MTV Europe’s Artists’ Choice Award and Q Award for Album of the Year. Meanwhile Amy’s 2003 debut album ‘Frank’ has now gone double platinum selling an incredible 300,000 copies in 2007 alone. I had the unique opportunity to share a pint with Amy at one of London’s seedier sections of town. But trust me when I tell you… it was cool. What follows is an overview of our conversation…

UPBEAT: Things have taken off rather quickly for you— how exactly… are you dealing with all of your well-deserved fame?
Amy Winehouse
“It’s really cool. Look around you [laughs]. My life isn’t really different to how it used to be. It’s better in that I’m working more now. You know how when you don’t go to work, you don’t always feel 100 percent? Well, because I’m working a lot, I feel like I’m doing good things now. [she takes a drag on her cigarette and pauses reflectively] I never wanted any of this and that’s the truth. I would have been happy to sing in a cover band for the rest of my life. And I wouldn’t have gone on one of those shows in a million, billion years, because I think that musicality is not something other people should judge you on. Music’s a thing you have with yourself. Even though the people who go on those shows are shit, it’s really damaging to be told that you are.”

UPBEAT: Is it fair to say that your lyrics are overtly emotional?
Amy Winehouse
“They’re very personal and very intense, in a way. But I think there’s a lot of humor in there as well. I’ve always wanted to present a point with a twist. You know, like ‘I’m really angry about this, you’re a bastard and you can’t even get a boner!’ I just want to say things I would find funny if I heard them.”

UPBEAT: Where do you see yourself ten years down the road?
Amy Winehouse
“Well, I’ll have at least three beautiful kids. I want to do at least four or five albums and I want to get them out of the way now. And then I want to take ten years out to go and have kids, definitely. I never used to be broody, but then I realized that I’m turning into a soppy bitch. Goodness in life comes from a sense of achievement and you get that from having a child and putting the child before yourself.”

UPBEAT: Are you religious?
Amy Winehouse
“I’m not religious at all. I think faith is something that gives you your strength. I believe in fate and I believe that things happen for a reason but I don’t think that there’s a high power, necessarily. I believe in karma very much though. There are so many rude people around and they’re the people that don’t have any real friends. And relationships with people— with your mum, your nan, your dog— are what you get the most happiness in life from. Apart from shoes and bags.”

UPBEAT: Are you going to turn into a diva?
Amy Winehouse
“I’m probably already one, if that means that you don’t give a shit about people’s opinions. I don’t suffer fools gladly. I’m not really here to make friends. I’ve learned all of that the hard way— I used to not say things like ‘I really want to hold a guitar in my video’, because I was trying to make everyone like me. But I don’t give a shit now. At the end of the day I’m there to do my job, I’m not there to have picnics. So, if that’s being a diva then yeah, I will be one.”

Most people have multiple systems of measuring time. They wear a “hip” watch on their wrists, hang a culturally correct clock on the wall, and a calendar next to the clock covered in sharpie notes with a different kitten for each month of the year. I measure time in a very different, but no less accurate manner. It’s usually a three-month cycle, common amongst nearly all drug and alcohol abusers… it is marked by the amount of time that it takes for Amy Winehouse to have a new drug-addled video crop up on the web. She’s like the Icarus of drug addiction and represents, unfortunately, the darkest depths of the rock n roll lifestyle. But let me just say for the record… it takes real guts to walk out on stage and perform your personal tragedies for public consumption in a stadium-size venue. It takes even more to defend yourself when a few people think your emotions might just consume you whole. I know that I couldn’t do it. I doubt many of her fans could. Because Winehouse is a real, honest talent. A great unflinching songwriter with a raw voice. And, in the tradition of artists like Billie Holiday and Nina Simone, she comes out and gives it all to us, how it felt. Passionate, desperate, tragic and lonely. She is a little lost girl with the strength to howl it all exactly like it was. I’ve seen Winehouse perform many many times, apparently completely drunk yet seemingly sober.

To be perfectly honest, it’s pretty tough these days… to tell the difference. She always slurs, wanders, wobbles, gets caught up in the emotions. I saw her sing to a small group of about 12 or so people in a small London pub with nothing more than an acoustic guitar for accompaniment. She poured her entire soul into all of those songs. She didn’t seem to care who was listening. And that’s true artistry.

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