Since her 2007 break out album Back to Black, Amy Winehouse has become a tabloid queen. The world watches with pity and fascination as she plays out a classic tale of the drug addicted songstress on a downward spiral. Winehouse may have thwarted the sophomore slump with Back to Black - winning critical acclaim and five Grammys in February, including Best New Artist - however, Winehouse's success has been plagued with the dark cloud of her drug and alcohol addiction causing sloppy and/or canceled performances, as well as a cornucopia of health and legal problems.
Why the seemingly public obsession with Winehouse's tragic persona? In fact, addiction and eccentricity have long gone hand in hand with creativity. Some of the greatest musicians, actors, and artists of all time have been reclusive, severely chemically dependent, or plagued by mental illness or known for some pretty strange and quirky behavior. Amy Winehouse certainly does not have a monopoly on quirky and addicted. So why the hubbub? Really, what is the big deal?
Please don't mistake my tone for apathy. On the contrary, the affliction of "divine madness" is a serious condition, and I find it quite deplorable the level of voyeurism to which we have succumbed wherein we view dysfunction as entertainment. Recently, Rolling Stone sent journalist Claire Hoffman to London "for a first hand look at Amy Winehouse." Hoffman paints a picture of a spaced-out, flighty, obviously stoned Winehouse, rambling devotion to her incarcerated husband, Blake Fielder-Civil. Prior to being allowed into Winehouse's abode, Hoffman stood outside with the "ever present" paparazzi. In the video, you can see that Winehouse thrives on the attention, waving to the cameras and making a statement as the cameras flash in her face.
She opens the door, and on cue a firestorm of flashbulbs surrounds her, voices crying her name. "Amy! Amy! Amy!"
"I guess I should apologize," she starts, fluttering her eyes, swaying her hips, flipping and tucking her hair innocently.
"Don't apologize, Amy, don't apologize!" the photographers shout as they blast her with their flash fusillade. "We love you, and your friends love you!" "What next, Amy?" they cry. "What are you going to call your new album?"
She smiles, making them wonder if she'll answer, and then wickedly says, "Black Don't Crack."
As we cluck our tongues and talk about how much of a train wreck Winehouse is, we watch with curious dread and anticipation. Out of control, barreling down the tracks, and headed straight for destruction, Winehouse doesn't even seem to be able to get it together enough to stay alive, let alone make her next album. Having been replaced as the singer of the theme to the next James Bond movie, it would suggest that the tendency toward drama is working against Winehouse, rather than in her favor.
Quiet as is kept, tabloid love is just as unhealthy as drug and alcohol addiction. In fact, the paparazzi are like vultures circling Winehouse with their shouts of adulation, while they snicker and wait for her to hit rock bottom. Her destructive life and behavior pays their salaries. Personally, I'd prefer Amy to be healthy and to continue making music. Her voice has a raspy and smoky quality, and her music is a contemporary twist on the do-whop era - all of which has captivated millions. While her second album was the one to earn Winehouse notoriety, you can almost tell that she was healthier with her first album Frank. In those earlier days, her voice wasn't quite as raspy and she had more meat on her bones. As it stands now, the angst that fueled Back to Black - and likely the addiction as well - is cancerous as is the type of tabloid fan fair constantly outside her house, shouting her name with flashing cameras.
© Kimberlee Morrison 2008. Some rights reserved.