By: Hilary Hughes
Mari Sarai / Camera Press / Retna Ltd Amy Winehouse on the cover of the Village Voice Pazz + Jop issue, January 23, 2008
The most stunning scene in Asif Kapadia's painful, extraordinary Amy -- the new documentary tracking the rise and tragic fall of gone-too-soon pop powerhouse Amy Winehouse -- is what Kapadia calls a "beautiful accident." In it, Winehouse is in the downtown confines of Chun King Studios, nestled in its blanket-padded recording booth. She's laying down the vocals for the devastating title track from 2007's Back to Black, the Mark Ronson-produced, Sixties-soul- and girl-group-channeling triumph that thrust her into the international spotlight and netted her Grammys, BRIT Awards, and other accolades galore. At this point in Amy, we see Ronson sitting at the studio console; the voiceover Kapadia chose for the clip is one in which Ronson speaks of Winehouse's prolific lyric-penning abilities and the speed with which she got the lines of "Back to Black" down on paper. The camera cuts to her preparing to sing.
In the shade of the booth, Winehouse forges poetry out of emotional masochism. The strength of her voice goes toe to toe with the intensity of her lyrics, which detail the dissolution of her mercurial relationship with the love of her life, Blake Fielder-Civil. We now know "Back to Black" as a solemn, revealing, and heartbroken dirge -- albeit one set to a robust groove -- an unflinching account of a woman scorned as she ruminates on her lover's infidelity: "He left no time to regret/Kept his dick wet/With his same old safe bet...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/And I go back to black..." But in this moment in the film, we hear only Winehouse, her voice ringing out stark and alone until the horns and the bells swell up through her headphones and eventually surround it. Winehouse looks up from the mic. "Oohhh, it's a bit upsetting at the end, isn't it?!" She smiles, her lacquered eyes fall to the page, and she gets back to work.More »