It’s easy to say that someone’s not forgotten, even when they rarely come to mind outside of prompting. It’s polite, convenient. We see it all the time: so-and-so would have been whatever-age this week, here’s a reappraisal of their work that most mattered. It’s click-bait, first, true sentiments second – most of the time, at least. We all know it. And we’ve long learned to sleep easily enough with it.
But some talents will always resonate. Some sentiments can’t be faked. And some talents were well realised indeed at the first time of asking. Soon enough on Clash we’ll be running content on a much-missed singer whose death, 10 years ago, struck a blow to the hearts of fans worldwide, and was felt far beyond his immediate audience. This isn’t content by committee – this is running because we feel that the man in question’s work remains wonderful, and we cherish any opportunity to return to it.
But that’s for later. Here, we’ve asked rising Manchester soul singer Daley, whose new single ‘Broken’ is out now, to look back on a record that left a massive impression on him when it was released on October 20th, 2003: Amy Winehouse’s ‘Frank’. Featuring writing and production from Salaam Remi, Jimmy Hogarth and the singer herself (of course – she was never simply a gob-for-hire), it’s a sparkling, Mercury Prize-nominated and Ivor Novello-winning set that hasn’t dulled in the intervening years, despite the slow-reveal tragedy that was to follow.
‘Frank’ finds Winehouse – just 20 at the time of the record’s release – exploring a wider variety of sounds and styles than would be evident on the more-successful follow-up, ‘Back To Black’. It exhibits a creative restlessness, a passion for the logistics and methodology of music that, perhaps, Winehouse would never articulate so breezily again. Yes, ‘Back To Black’ is the album of the greater critical acclaim, but it’s also Winehouse in a set role, wearing the same suit for the whole show. On ‘Frank’, she dared to rock out wearing whatever new shiny thing caught her eye.
But that’s just one person’s take. Daley’s is below…
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Amy Winehouse, ‘Stronger Than Me’
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“What Amy did with ‘Frank’ was re-set an appreciation for honest, relatable songwriting, and did it so well that she was able to bring through with her a renewed appreciation of soul, jazz and hip-hop.
“These genres often have ‘old’ connotations attached to them, and generally get a difficult rep in the UK. But she took the shine off things, gave her music character, humour and honesty – she made it young and made it British.
“‘Stronger Than Me’ is a key song from the set and the first that caught my ear – it combined everything that the album is about: hip-hop-sampled drums, laced with jazz musicality and soulful vocals. There are no sugar-coated lyrics here – it’s just her telling it as it is, in a way that most female artists were not brave enough to.
“‘In My Bed’ established a definite nod to hip-hop, sampling Nas’ ‘Made You Look’ and still fitting perfectly with everything else around it. Acoustic moments like ‘I Heard Love Is Blind’ and ‘Cherry’ exposed her voice and songwriting, and ease within a jazz set-up.
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Amy Winehouse, ‘In My Bed’
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“It was personal, it was her life being described – to a point where it was sometimes hard to know what she’s even talking about, with details and story-telling that were so anecdotal and personal. It was like listening to a private conversation.
“I first heard lines like, ‘Run out to meet you, chips and pitta’ and ‘You’re longer than frozen turkey’ and thought: ‘That can't be the lyric, I'll look it up.’ Those random snippets of Amy-isms intertwined within the intelligent, emotional songs she wrote are what make ‘Frank’ unique, and still somehow completely relatable.
“When I first listened to Amy Winehouse, it was very much an anchor – a reference point to the standard of artistry and honesty to live up to being a British singer-songwriter. I’m not sure who would have been my reference point before her, as someone who represents my generation of musicians.
“Listening to her work I hear no compromise – even on the catchiest of her songs she remained true to what she was doing and saying. For that reason she remains in my playlist, to me and to a great deal of other musicians and music lovers. She was, and still is, the new standard.”
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Any Winehouse, 'F*ck Me Pumps'
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Anyone wanting to support the Amy Winehouse Foundation, helping vulnerable young people across Amy’s home turf of north London, can find out more information here.
Find more information on Daley online here.
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