The dog days of summer are upon us, people. It’s August, it’s hot outside, and the news cycle is starting to slow to a crawl. The general sluggishness of the season is even affecting the music industry, as music fans don’t seem to be gravitating towards any new material. Instead, they seem to be content to play the same songs that they’ve had on repeat all summer long.
Case in point: Katy Perry‘s “Last Friday Night (T.G.I.F),” which has exhibited a stranglehold on the top of our Song of the Summer Countdown for six consecutive weeks. Her song looks to have a lock on the prize at this point, but then again, maybe The Throne (aka Jay-Z and Kanye West) can mount a last-minute challenge when their highly anticipated collaboration Watch The Throne drops next week? Stay tuned!
Until an official report on the cause of Amy Winehouse’s death becomes public, many are more than happy to speculate, including, most recently, Tony Azzopardi, a 56-year-old London man who claims to have been friends with the singer and her now-incarcerated ex Blake Fielder-Civil. Azzopardi has given several interviews to local police?and several more to the British tabloids?indicating that, in spite of the claims of Winehouse’s family, the singer had relapsed, a fact he knew as a result of helping her buy crack cocaine and heroin on the eve of her death.
“She sang from her soul,” Estelle told VH1 News, as Big Sean looked on. She recalled first hearing “F?k Me Pumps,” from Winehouse’s debut Frank: “I’m sitting there, like, ‘I know girls like that! I know every one of ‘em girls! We rave with them every week!’” Clearly, even though the two singers came up together, Estelle admired her late friend’s lyrical talents. “It’s hard as an artist to be that clear and that clean in your message and what you’re talking about,” she said. “[Amy Winehouse] was the only one I knew who could do that, and just speak it.” The real revelation of the interview, though, is the new level of appreciation that Big Sean develops for Winehouse as Estelle speaks. “Wow! That’s crazy! I didn’t know it was like that,” he said, admiringly, adding, “I didn’t personally know her. That’s real, man. She sounded like a real G. No, seriously!” (Anyone who needs a reminder of her realness need only watch her shocked gratitude at winning the Grammy for Record of the Year. WARNING: That video nearly made us cry at work?and we watched the ceremony live.) Read more…
Mark Ronson is, it would seem, a firm believer in the old saying, “the show must go on.” Less than thirty-six hours after he attended the funeral of his dear friend and musical collaborator Amy Winehouse, he and his band The Business Intl. were slated to play an open-air concert as part of the weeklong Greenwich Summer Sessions festival, and rather than cancel the engagement, he dedicated the show to his late friend and played several of her songs, including “Valerie”:
The song was already part of the band’s repertoire, but last night’s performance was particularly poignant. “Usually when we sing this song, Kyle [Falconer, previously of The View] sings it,” Ronson said, introducing the song, “But you know what? I think the only thing that would be right tonight is if you guys sing it.” He then introduced Winehouse’s two backup singers: “We’re gonna help you?I’m not gonna say that Zalon and Ade don’t have much better voices than all of you?but it’s not really about that. We want you to sing this s?t as loud as you can.” The crowd gladly obliged. The band?and crowd?were also joined on vocals by Dave McCabe, who’d originally written “Valerie” for his band The Zutons.
Ronson’s tributes spanned the entire evening; while DJing before his set, he played “Rehab,” and he later related a quotation from Tuesday’s service while speaking to the crowd: “There was a rabbi that spoke, and he said that somebody’s life is measured in deeds and not years, and that’s the best thing I heard yesterday.” Near the end of his performance he returned again to Winehouse’s catalog, performing “Back to Black,” which is viewable below.
In the wake of Amy Winehouse‘s untimely death, many of her obituaries have focused on how little recorded material of hers actually exists. Since releasing her second studio album, Back In Black, in 2006, the soul-influenced vocalist went five years without officially releasing any new material. And while speculation and rumors of new songs have been swirling around since her unfortunate passing on Saturday, a source close to Winehouse’s management has told The Guardian that there may actually be a treasure trove of songs to release. Enough for an album, or, dare we say it, even two.
According to the source, the late singer “had put down the bare bones of tracks and some were further along than others.” Constantly writing over these past few years, it was understood that Winehouse was recording and amassing a pile of demos in the studios within her home. In 2008, Chairman and CEO of Universal Music Group, Lucian Grainge publically boasted that Amy’s new material was “sensational,” and just a year ago, the artist who already penned Frank and Back to Black vowed that a third album was in the works, and would be released in January of 2011.
Like the gifted singer, that date has now come and gone, and as fans, we can only hope that the purity in the groundwork Winehouse already created will be handled with care and built upon in the most respectful manner possible. And while her label Island Records is maintaining a universal (no pun intended) don’t-confirm-or-deny position, we’ve been told by our own sources over there that there is “no new music as of now.” Translation: it’s coming, but we have to be patient.
After friends and family of Amy Winehouse gathered yesterday for a private funeral ceremony, her father Mitch Winehouse released a statement that insisted that Winehouse had “conquered her drug dependency” three years ago, and “had just completed three weeks of abstinence” from alcohol. “She was not depressed,” he also noted. Implicitly his statement castigates the fatalistic tendencies of some of the Winehouse eulogies. None of this was to diminish his daughter’s struggle; in the same statement he renewed his commitment to helping others combat addictions through the soon to be formed Amy Winehouse Foundation: “In [Britain], if you cannot afford a private rehabilitation clinic, there is a two-year waiting list for help. With the help of Keith Vaz MP, we are trying to change that.” (The statement can be read in full at The Guardian)
Kelly Osbourne, however, was more openly critical of those who might be less than entirely respectful about the passing of her close friend. When she heard the news, she’d tweeted, “I cant even breath right my now im crying so hard i just lost 1 of my best friends. i love you forever Amy & will never forget the real you!” She called it “the saddest day of my life!” Today, she returned to Twitter to call out those who she sees as profiting off Winehouse’s death: “any ‘friend’ of amy’s talking 2 the press/tv are not her actual friend’s. her real friends have more dignity then to get $ 2 talk about her!”
One surprising but touching tribute that we suspect neither Winehouse nor Osbourne would have a problem with came from Sixties girl-group veteran Ronnie Spector. Spector was a clear influence on Winehouse, and, in turn, the ex-Ronette would regularly cover “Back to Black” in concert. The singer spoke to Matthew Perpetua at Rolling Stone about her grief over Winehouse’s passing. “Every time I looked at her, it was like I was looking at myself,” she told him. “She had my beehive, my eyeliner, my attitude.” But this was not an accusation of plagiarism?it was admiration that she returned.
Amy came to my show in London about six months ago, and she was so shy. She was hiding behind somebody, but I could see the hairstyle, and I knew she was there. That was all I needed. When I sang “Back to Black,” I could see the tears in her eyes, and there were tears in mine.
Spector will be releasing a cover of “Back to Black,” with proceeds going to substance abuse treatment center Daytop Village. The song can be streamed at Rolling Stone.
Amy Winehouse‘s family and friends?including Kelly Osbourne, who had her hair styled in a beehive after Winehouse’s iconic ‘do, and Mark Ronson?gathered at Edgewarebury Cemetery in north London this morning for a private funeral service for the departed singer. Her father Mitch Winehouse gave a eulogy before the service, one that closed with Carole King‘s “So Far Away.” Mourners reportedly gathered afterward at a local synagogue, before the singer was cremated and her family began to sit Shiva.
Winehouse’s untimely passing has spiked interest in revisiting her woefully small body of work; Back to Black is likely to re-enter album sales charts this week. Even still, Microsoft came under fire for encouraging followers of its UK PR Twitter account @tweetbox360 to remember the singer by downloading the album via Zune.
We certainly understand (and share) the desire to revisit her work, which is why we went into our archives to find the tape of Amy Winehouse’s performance at the 2008 Oxygen Festival in Ireland. We’ve aired a handful of clips from this performance before, like her rendition of her now eerie classic “Rehab,” below, but we wanted to share the concert in full. MTV Live: Amy Winehouse will premiere tonight on Palladia at 8 p.m. ET/PT, with encore airings on tomorrow at 11:30 p.m. ET/PT and Thursday, July 28 at 7:00 p.m. ET/PT.
When Michael Jackson tragically and unexpectedly passed away two summers ago after an overdose of Propofol (which may or may not have been administered by Dr. Conrad Murray), the primary coping mechanism that people utilized while dealing with their grief was rekindling their love of his extensive musical legacy. People who hadn’t visited record stores in years flocked to purchase his back catalog, radio stations worldwide spun his songs for months on end and, as a result, Michael Jackson became a bigger star in death than he had been during the last 15 years of his life.
Well, in terms of her cultural relevance, it’s safe to say that Amy Winehouse was no Michael Jackson. However, her untimely (if somewhat expected) death this weekend at the age of 27 has done a lot to rekindle people’s interest in her musical output, which consists of two studio albums (2003′s Frank and 2006′s Back To Black) and a handful of B-sides. Not surprisingly, she currently occupies three of the top six spots on the iTunes album charts (see below), and “Rehab” —sadly, the song that will now forever define her career— has sold enough and been spun enough in the past three days to land it at #15 on this week’s Song Of The Summer Countdown.
As for the rest of the chart, there’s not much to say this week. The top seven spots in this week’s countdown are identical to the top seven songs from last week’s countdown; Katy Perry is still holding court at the top of the charts, and Adele is still nipping at her heels, closely trailed by Pitbull, LMFAO and Lady Gaga.
Ever since news broke that Amy Winehouse had been found dead at 27, the outpouring of grief (including dozens of comments on our announcement) has been a stark reminder of how much, and to how many people, Winehouse continued to matter as an artist. Fans have left tribute comments not only on Winehouse’s own videos on YouTube, but also barely-related ones like Britney Spears’s “If You Seek Amy,” just because they’re looking for any outlet to grieve. As we noted earlier, a range of performers voiced tribute on Twitter, but for some, 140 characters wasn’t enough.
Big Boishared a previously unreleased Dungeon Family remix of her song “Tears Dry On Their Own”:
Several performers blogged touching tributes. Adele‘s “Amy Flies in Paradise xx”, praised the way in which both her sheer talent and her unwillingness to compromise led to a minor sea change in British pop: “Amy paved the way for artists like me and made people excited about British music again whilst being fearlessly hilarious and blas? about the whole thing. I don?t think she ever realised just how brilliant she was and how important she is, but that just makes her even more charming.”
And although the autopsy has just begun today, and toxicology reports will take weeks, the popular consensus is that Winehouse’s death was caused, directly or indirectly, by her struggles with addiction. Dr. Drewtweeted, “SO sad, another lost to addiction. A reminder this is often a fatal condition. Recovery is possible, but sadly not for Amy Winehouse.” But perhaps the most touching tribute on this subject comes from Russell Brand, a fellow performer who famously struggled with issues of addiction. His post For Amy, about the inevitability of one of two types of “the phone call,” is a must-read. We recommend you click through to it, but the multitude of hits has swamped his site, so just in case you can’t get through, we’ve reposted his tribute in its entirety below.