Review Summary: Pre-Rehab Winehouse.
Back in the dinosaur age, there existed a time when Amy Winehouse had no famously nappy beehive hairdo, a time when her smug face was not plastered on magazine covers left and right for either her drug abuse, alcohol abuse, or any of her other attention grabbing antics. There was a time before Winehouse belted out tunes about turning down rehab and being cheated on. The world was simply a more beautiful place when Winehouse was a more beautiful person. I dare say that there was a time when she had some form of class in her bones, while she was still abrasive, it was more Winehouse being brutally honest...or just plain frank
This is where Amy's appropriately named self-titled debut album comes into play. Frank
is a very stripped down album of just pure soul and jazz songs, through and through, sung by the wonderfully clean cut Amy Winehouse. The direction of the album is obvious right of the bat just by the opening song, "Stronger Than Me." The song is a femme-power blues anthem about the woman being the man in the relationship, providing a wonderful introduction to the album. The light little guitar strumming and low tempo hip-hop beat provide great instrumentation backing up Winehouse's magnificent vocal work so nicely showcased already. This trend does not stop even continuing into the following track, "You Sent Me Flying," which really could be called "Stronger Then Me: Part 2." Part one being the story of Winehouse fighting with her boyfriend and part two being about the following break up and being 'kicked to the curb.' "You Sent Me Flying" is even more stripped down then the previous part though, featuring primarily just a few piano chords with a nice little beat not coming to front till about midway through the song.
Minor signs of the tough and rough Amy Winehouse that we know and (debatably) love today does show through on this album though. Just by the title of Frank's
first single, "*** Me Pumps," you know it is a true Winehouse song. The track is a very humorous take on the annoying girls that run around bars downtown on Saturday nights wearing their highest possible heels, dressed like sluts, just looking for attention from the men. The song is sung in a very chill way, like a not-so-polite little message from Amy making fun of her own gender. Every lyric is a cynically little stab at really what are society has become:
"You can't sit down right,
Cause you jeans are too tight,
And you're lucky its ladies night.
With your big empty purse,
Every week it gets worse,
At least your breasts cost more than hers."
It is the song, "In Your Bed" though where the album reaches its highest point. The song could best be described as 'Winehouse Pissed Off,' being that the song has some tense instrumentals and very darkly sang vocals, particularly the chorus about turning down men that are fighting to get in bed with her. The song, while the least jazzy and stripped of the album, is probably one of the best songs. The vocals and lyrics both are very emotional, and you know exactly the mood trying to be conveyed thanks to the magnificent instrumental work, including guitars, strings, and saxophone pieces. The song is also a nice break from the constant jazz smack down that this album is. While each song has something good about it in its own way, each song (excluding "In My Bed") is very similar to the one prior which can cause it to kind of drag on, particularly in the midsection of the album. The opening few songs, and closing few songs are all spectacular, but the middle part of the album is really what drags this album down and runs it into the ground. The songs "Moody's Mood For Love" and "(There Is No) Greater Love" for example could easily have been removed from this track listing and the album in general would have been more digestible.
Regardless of this, Frank
proved its main point, Amy Winehouse has talent. Sure in years following she became hounded by the media, became drug addicted and really just made a fool of herself for the tabloids pleasure, but what they didn't tell was that her second album, Back to Black
was an album which was so phenomenal it surpassed Frank
in every way imaginable. Although Amy would not have had the chance to make that wonderful album if it wasn't for the pretty big success that Frank
was in its own right. Let's not forget our roots shall we.