Back to Black

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This article is about the album. For the song, see Back to Black (song).
Back to Black
Studio album by Amy Winehouse
Released 27 October 2006 (2006-10-27)
Recorded
Genre
Length 35:00
Label Island
Producer
Amy Winehouse chronology
  • Back to Black
  • (2006)
US and Japanese cover
Singles from Back to Black
  1. "Rehab"
    Released: 23 October 2006 (2006-10-23)
  2. "You Know I'm No Good"
    Released: 7 January 2007 (2007-01-07)
  3. "Back to Black"
    Released: 30 April 2007 (2007-04-30)
  4. "Tears Dry on Their Own"
    Released: 13 August 2007 (2007-08-13)
  5. "Love Is a Losing Game"
    Released: 10 December 2007 (2007-12-10)

Back to Black is the second and final studio album by English recording artist Amy Winehouse, released on 27 October 2006 by Island Records. The album produced several singles, including "Rehab", "You Know I'm No Good", "Back to Black", "Tears Dry on Their Own", and "Love Is a Losing Game". Back to Black was acclaimed by music critics, who praised Salaam Remi and Mark Ronson's production, and Winehouse's songwriting and emotive singing style.

At the 50th Annual Grammy Awards ceremony, Back to Black won Best Pop Vocal Album and was also nominated for Album of the Year. At the same ceremony, Winehouse won four additional awards meaning that she ties with five other artists as the second-most awarded female in a single ceremony. The album was also nominated at the 2007 BRIT Awards for Best British Album and was shortlisted for the 2007 Mercury Prize. In December 2011, Back to Black was announced as the UK's second best-selling album of the 21st century by the Official Charts Company, having sold 3.5 million copies in the UK alone.[3] As of April 2013, the album has sold over twenty million copies worldwide.[4]

A deluxe edition of Back to Black was also released on 5 November 2007 in the UK. The bonus disc features B-sides, rare, and live tracks, as well as "Valerie". Winehouse's debut DVD I Told You I Was Trouble: Live in London was released the same day in the UK and 13 November in the US. It includes a live set recorded at London's Shepherds Bush Empire and a 50-minute documentary charting the singer's career over the previous four years.

Background[edit]

Winehouse released her debut album, Frank, on 20 October 2003. Produced mainly by Salaam Remi, many songs were influenced by jazz and, apart from two covers, every song was co-written by Winehouse. The album received positive reviews[5][6] with compliments over the "cool, critical gaze" in its lyrics[7] and brought comparisons of her voice to Sarah Vaughan,[8] Macy Gray and others.[7] The album entered the upper levels of the UK Albums Chart in 2004 when it was nominated for BRIT Awards in the categories of British Female Solo Artist and British Urban Act. It was eventually certified triple platinum by the British Phonographic Industry.[9] Later in 2004 she won the Ivor Novello (songwriting) Award for Best Contemporary Song, alongside Salaam Remi, with her contribution to the first single, "Stronger Than Me".[10] The album also made the short list for the 2004 Mercury Music Prize.

Recording[edit]

In contrast to her jazz-influenced former album, Winehouse's focus shifted to the girl groups of the 1950s and 1960s. Winehouse hired New York singer Sharon Jones's longtime band, the Dap-Kings to back her up in the studio and on tour.[11] In May 2006 Winehouse's demonstration tracks such as "You Know I'm No Good" and "Rehab" appeared on Mark Ronson's New York radio show on East Village Radio. These were some of the first new songs played on the radio after the release of "Pumps" and both were slated to appear on her second album. The 11-track album was produced entirely by Salaam Remi and Ronson, with the production credits being split between them. Ronson said in a 2010 interview that he liked working with Winehouse because she was blunt when she did not like his work.[12]

Tom Elmhirst was contracted to help with the mixing of the album; Elmhirst first remixed the single 'You Know I'm No Good'. Elmhirst first received Ronson's original mixed which he described as being "radical in terms of planning, kind of Beatlesque." Elmhirst panned the songs drums to one side, he attempted to mix "Love is a Losing Game" in the same manner he did with "Rehab" but he felt it was not right. The majority of the songs produced by Ronson were done at the studio of the band the Dap Kings, in Brooklyn, New York, the drums, piano, guitar and bass were all done together in one room., with the drums being recorded with one microphone, with lots of spill between the instruments.[13] Elmhirst mixed "Rehab", when he first received the multitrack of the song it was small, however Mark then went to London to record strings, brass and percussion in one of Metropolis's tracking rooms. After this was added, there were quite a few tracks. The song had a retro, '60s soul, R&B feel, which is what the Dap Kings specialise in, when it came to the mixing Elmhirst added a contemporary feel to it as well, while Mark wanted to keep the mix sparse and not over-produced.[13]

Music and lyrics[edit]

According to AllMusic's John Bush, Back to Black has Winehouse "deserting jazz and wholly embracing contemporary R&B".[2] David Mead of Paste also viewed it as a departure from Frank and said that it sets her singing to Salaam Remi and Mark Ronson's "synthetic Motown-style backdrop".[14] The song "Tears Dry on Their Own" samples the backing music from Marvin Gaye and Tammi Terrell's 1967 song "Ain't No Mountain High Enough".[15] Music journalist Chuck Eddy credits Ronson and Remi's production for resembling Phil Spector's "Wall of Sound" technique and surrounding Winehouse with brass and string sections, harp, and the Wurlitzer.[16] PopMatters writer Christian John Wikane said that its "sensibilities of 1960s pop and soul" are contradicted by Winehouse's "blunt" lyrics and felt that "this particular marriage of words and music mirrors the bittersweet dichotomy that sometimes frames real relationships".[17]

On the song "Rehab", Winehouse mentions "Ray" and "Mr. Hathaway", in reference to Ray Charles and Donny Hathaway. However, for some time during live performances, she replaced "Ray" with "Blake", referring to her ex-husband, Blake Fielder-Civil, who served time in prison for charges relating to grievous bodily harm.[18]

Release and promotion[edit]

A deluxe edition of the album was released in Europe on 5 November 2007. The re-issue features the original studio album remastered as well as a bonus disc including various B-sides, rare, and live tracks, including the Live Lounge rendition of the single "Valerie", which was originally only available (in studio form) on Mark Ronson's Version album. A deluxe edition of Back to Black was also released on 5 November 2007 in the UK. The bonus disc features B-sides, rare, and live tracks, as well as "Valerie". Winehouse's debut DVD I Told You I Was Trouble: Live in London was released the same day in the UK and 13 November in the US. It includes a live set recorded at London's Shepherds Bush Empire and a 50-minute documentary charting the singer's career over the previous four years.[19]

Singles[edit]

The first single released from the album on 23 October 2006 was the Ronson-produced "Rehab", a song about her past refusal to attend an alcohol rehabilitation centre despite prodding by her management company.[20] On 22 October 2006, based solely on download sales, it entered the UK Singles Chart at number nineteen and when the physical single was released the following week, it climbed to number seven.

The second single from the album was "You Know I'm No Good". The single was released on 8 January 2007 with a remix featuring rap vocals by Ghostface Killah. It reached number eighteen on the UK Singles Chart and, in the same week's chart, "Rehab" climbed back up to number twenty. Back to Black was released in the United States in March 2007, with "You Know I'm No Good" as its lead single. A third UK single, "Back to Black", was released on 30 April 2007, and peaked at number twenty-five. "Rehab" rose to number ten on the Billboard Hot 100 the week of 14 June, after a performance of the song at the 2007 MTV Movie Awards. The following week it peaked at number nine. Two further singles were released from the album. "Tears Dry on Their Own" was released on 13 August 2007, and peaked at number sixteen in the UK, while "Love Is a Losing Game", released on 10 December 2007, reached number forty-six.

Critical reception[edit]

Professional ratings
Review scores
Source Rating
AllMusic 5/5 stars[2]
The A.V. Club A−[21]
Blender 3.5/5 stars[22]
The Guardian 4/5 stars[1]
The Observer 4/5 stars[23]
Pitchfork Media 6.4/10[24]
Q 4/5 stars[25]
Rolling Stone 3/5 stars[26]
Slant Magazine 3.5/5 stars[27]
The Times 4/5 stars[28]

Back to Black received universal acclaim from music critics. At Metacritic, which assigns a normalised rating out of 100 to reviews from mainstream critics, the album received an average score of 81, based on 26 reviews.[29] AllMusic writer John Bush lauded Winehouse's musical transition from her debut album: "all the best parts of her musical character emerge intact, and actually, are all the better for the transformation from jazz vocalist to soul siren."[2] Q magazine wrote that she "now has a voice brimming with womanly promise."[25] Dorian Lynskey of The Guardian called it "a 21st-century soul classic".[1] Sal Cinqueamni of Slant Magazine said that Winehouse and her producers are "expert mood-setters or crafty reconstructionists".[27] Victoria Segal of The Times stated "these are explicit, honest songs ... from a thoroughly modern milieu".[28] The Observer's Stuart Nicholson stated "it works ... by dint of its clever melody lines and smart lyrics".[23] Jon Pareles of The New York Times called the album "a wonderfully time-twisted batch of songs".[30] The New Yorker's Sasha Frere-Jones praised Winehouse's "mush-mouthed approach" and "range and delivery".[31] Nathan Rabin, writing in The A.V. Club, found interesting "the incongruity between Winehouse's trifling lyrical concerns and Back To Black's wall-of-sound richness".[21]

In a mixed review, Rolling Stone's Christian Hoard gave the album three stars and stated, "The tunes don't always hold up. But the best ones are impossible to dislike."[26] MSN Music's Robert Christgau gave it a two-star honorable mention,[32] indicating a "likable effort consumers attuned to its overriding aesthetic or individual vision may well enjoy".[33] He cited "You Know I'm No Good" and "Rehab" as highlights and quipped, "Pray her marriage lasts—she's observant, and it would broaden her perspective".[32] Pitchfork Media's Joshua Klein criticised Winehouse's "defensive", subjective lyrics concerning relationships, but added that "Winehouse has been blessed by a brassy voice that can transform even mundane sentiments into powerful statements".[24] Douglas Wolk, writing for Blender, said that the album "sounds fantastic—partly because the production nails sample-ready '60s soul right down to the drum sound; and partly because Winehouse is one hell of an impressive singer, especially when she's not copping other people's phrasing".[22] In a retrospective review for Rolling Stone in 2010, Wolk gave the album four-and-a-half out of five stars and referred to it as "an unlikely marvel, a desperately sad and stirring record whose hooks and production (by Remi and Mark Ronson) are worthy of the soul hall-of-famers she namedrops—'Tears Dry On Their Own' is basically 'Ain't No Mountain High Enough' recast as self-recrimination".[34]

Accolades[edit]

Back to Black was named one of the ten best albums of 2006 and 2007 by several publications on their year-end albums lists, including The Austin Chronicle (number four), Billboard (number three), Blender (number eight), Slant Magazine (number four), Entertainment Weekly (number two), The New York Times (number three)[35] and Time (number one).[36] The album won numerous awards at the 50th Annual Grammy Awards, including Record of the Year and Song of the Year for her hit single "Rehab"; while the album received nominations for Album of the Year and Best Pop Vocal Album, winning the latter.[37][38] Winehouse herself, for the album, was presented the Grammy for Best New Artist,[37] while Ronson earned the 2008 Grammy Award for Producer of the Year, Non-Classical.[39] In July 2007, the album made the shortlist for the 2007 Mercury Prize. Other nominees included the eventual winners Klaxons, Dizzee Rascal, and the incumbent winner Arctic Monkeys. This is the second time Winehouse has been nominated for the Mercury Prize; her debut album Frank was shortlisted in 2004. This album was placed at number forty on Rolling Stone's list of The Top 50 Albums of 2007.[40] Entertainment Weekly critic Chris Willman named Back to Black the second best album of 2007, commenting that "Black will hold up as one of the great breakthrough CDs of our time." He adds, "In the end, the singer's real-life heartache over her incarcerated spouse proves what's obvious from the grooves: When this lady sings about love, she means every word."[41] Rolling Stone's list of the 100 Best Albums of the Decade, from 2000–09, ranked the album number twenty.[42]

The song "Rehab" won the Ivor Novello Award for "Best Contemporary Song" on 24 May 2007.[43] Time magazine named "Rehab" the best song of 2007. Writer Josh Tyrangiel praised Winehouse for her confidence, opining, "What she is, is mouthy, funny, sultry, and quite possibly crazy", adding that "it's impossible not to be seduced by her originality. Combine it with production by Mark Ronson that references four decades worth of soul music without once ripping it off, and you've got the best song of 2007."[44]

In 2012, Rolling Stone ranked the album at number 451 on its list of The 500 Greatest Albums of All Time.[45]

Commercial performance[edit]

Winehouse performing at the Eurockéennes festival in France in 2007

Back to Black debuted at number three on the UK Albums Chart with first-week sales of 43,021 copies.[46] The album fell to number ten the following week, selling 27,763 copies.[47] By the end of 2006, the album had been certified platinum by the British Phonographic Industry (BPI).[9] Back to Black topped the UK Albums Chart for the first time during the week ending 20 January 2007, its eleventh week on the chart, selling over 35,500 copies.[48] The following week, the album remained at number one with nearly 48,000 copies sold.[49] Five weeks later, it returned for a third week atop the UK chart, selling 47,000 copies.[50] The deluxe edition of the album also spent a week atop the UK chart for the week ending 8 March 2008 with 62,773 copies sold,[51] its seventeenth week on the chart after entering at number twenty-two.[52] In doing so, Winehouse became the first artist to top the chart with separate regular and deluxe editions of the same album.[51] The two versions of the album charted separately at the time and were both in the top ten for the week ending 29 December 2007.[53] As of 14 June 2009, the album was the eighteenth highest-selling album of all time in the UK, with all versions combined.[54] Back to Black was the biggest-selling album of 2007 in the UK, having sold 1.85 million copies.[55] Its nearest rival was Leona Lewis's debut album Spirit, which finished with 1.59 million copies.[55] The BPI certified the album eleven-times platinum on 9 August 2013,[9] and by October 2013, it had sold 3,513,084 copies, becoming the UK's second best-selling album of the 21st century behind Adele's 21.[56]

Back to Black debuted at number seven on the Billboard 200 in the United States with first-week sales of 51,000 copies,[57] becoming the highest debut entry for an album by a British female solo artist at the time—a record that would be broken by Joss Stone's Introducing Joss Stone, which debuted at number two on the Billboard 200 for the week of 7 April 2007.[58][59] Following Winehouse's multiple wins at the 50th Annual Grammy Awards, the album jumped from number twenty-four to a new peak of number two on the Billboard 200 chart issue dated 1 March 2008 with sales of 115,000 copies, a 368% increase from the previous week.[60] The album was certified platinum by the Recording Industry Association of America (RIAA) on 10 July 2007 for shipments in excess of one million units,[61] becoming the twenty-fourth best-selling album of 2007.[62] It was eventually certified double platinum on 12 March 2008,[61] and has since sold over 2.4 million copies in the US.[63]

Back to Black topped the European Top 100 Albums chart for thirteen non-consecutive weeks,[64] while reaching number one in Austria, Belgium, Croatia, Denmark, Germany, Greece, Ireland, Italy, Netherlands, Norway, Poland, Portugal, Spain and Switzerland.[65][66][67][68][69] The album was certified eight-times platinum by the International Federation of the Phonographic Industry (IFPI) in late 2011, denoting sales of eight million copies across Europe.[70] As of November 2010, it is the fifth most downloaded album of all time in Germany.[71] By April 2013, the album had sold over twenty million copies worldwide [72]

Posthumous success[edit]

Following Winehouse's death on 23 July 2011,[73] sales of Back to Black drastically increased across the world. The album rose to number one on several iTunes charts worldwide.[74] On 24 July 2011, with fewer than seven hours sales after the announcement of her death counting towards the respective week's chart figures,[75] the original album re-entered the UK Albums Chart at number fifty-nine with 2,446 copies sold, while the deluxe edition sold 843 copies to re-enter the chart at number 163.[76] The following week, it soared back to number one,[77] marking the fourth time the album has reached the top of the chart. Back to Black held the top spot for two additional weeks, selling 63,071 copies in the second week and 43,726 copies in the third week.[78][79]

On 26 July 2011, Billboard reported that the album had re-entered the Billboard 200 chart dated 6 August 2011 at number nine with sales of 37,000 copies,[80] although that week's chart only tracked the first 36 hours of sales after her death was announced.[81] The following week, it climbed to number seven with 38,000 copies sold after a full week's worth of sales.[82] In Canada, the album re-entered the Canadian Albums Chart at number thirteen on sales of 2,500 copies, an increase of 2,172% from the previous week.[83][84] It rose to number six the following week, selling an additional 5,000 copies.[85] In continental Europe, Back to Black returned to the number-one spot in Austria,[86] Croatia,[87] Germany,[88] the Netherlands,[89] Poland[90] and Switzerland,[91] while reaching number one for the first time in Italy.[92]

Track listing[edit]

No. Title Writer(s) Producer Length
1. "Rehab"   Amy Winehouse Mark Ronson 3:35
2. "You Know I'm No Good"   Winehouse Ronson 4:17
3. "Me & Mr Jones"   Winehouse Salaam Remi 2:33
4. "Just Friends"   Winehouse Remi 3:13
5. "Back to Black"  
  • Winehouse
  • Ronson
Ronson 4:01
6. "Love Is a Losing Game"   Winehouse Ronson 2:35
7. "Tears Dry on Their Own"   Remi 3:06
8. "Wake Up Alone"  
Ronson 3:42
9. "Some Unholy War"   Winehouse Remi 2:22
10. "He Can Only Hold Her"  
  • Winehouse
  • Richard Poindexter
  • Robert Poindexter
Ronson 2:46
11. "Addicted"   Winehouse Remi 2:46
Notes
  • "Addicted" is only included on UK and Irish pressings of the standard album, while appearing as a bonus track on all deluxe editions of the album.
  • "Tears Dry on Their Own" contains a sample interpolation of "Ain't No Mountain High Enough" written by Nickolas Ashford and Valerie Simpson.[102]
  • "He Can Only Hold Her" contains a sample interpolation of "She's a Fox Now" written by Richard and Robert Poindexter.[102]

Personnel[edit]

Credits adapted from the liner notes of Back to Black.[102]

  • Amy Winehouse – vocals, backing vocals, guitar
  • John Adams – organ, piano, Rhodes
  • Ade – backing vocals
  • Troy Auxilly-Wilson – drums, tambourine
  • Victor Axelrod – claps, Wurlitzer
  • Harry Benson – photography
  • Mark Berrow – violin
  • Dave Bishop – baritone saxophone
  • Rachel Bolt – viola
  • Thomas Brenneck – guitar
  • Raye Cosbert – management
  • Chris Davisalto saxophone
  • Shomari "Sho" Dillon – assistant engineering
  • Gleyder "Gee" Disla – assistant engineering
  • Liz Edwards – violin
  • Richard Edwardstenor trombone
  • Chris Elliott – orchestra arrangement and conducting
  • Tom Elmhirst – mixing
  • Cochemea Gastelum – baritone saxophone
  • Jesse Gladstone – assistant engineering
  • Phil Griffin – US cover photography
  • Isobel Griffiths – orchestra contractor
  • Binky Griptite – guitar
  • Dave Guy – trumpet
  • Peter Hanson – violin
  • John Heley – cello
  • Ian Hendrickson-Smith – baritone saxophone
  • Vincent Henry – alto saxophone, baritone saxophone, bass clarinet, celesta, clarinet, flute, guitar, piano, saxophone, tenor saxophone
  • Alex Hutchinson – design
  • Joely Koos – cello
  • Sam Koppelman – percussion
  • Boguslaw Kostecki – violin
  • Alex Lake – photography
  • Andy Mackintosh – alto saxophone
  • Mike Makowski – assistant engineering
  • Vaughan Merrick – claps, engineering
  • Perry Montague-Mason – violin, orchestra leader
  • Dom Morley – engineering
  • Nick Movshon – bass
  • Everton Nelson – violin
  • Gary "G Major" Noble – mixing
  • Derek Pacuk – engineering
  • Matt Paul – engineering, mixing assistant
  • Tom Piggott-Smith – violin
  • Anthony Pleeth – cello
  • Bruce Purse – bass trumpet, flugelhorn, trumpet
  • Jonathan Rees – violin
  • Salaam Remi – bass, drums, guitar, piano, production, upright bass
  • Mishca Richter – photography
  • Frank Ricotti – percussion
  • Mark Ronson – band arrangement, claps, engineering, production, snaps, tambourine
  • Gabriel Roth – band arrangement, engineering
  • Steve Sidwell – trumpet
  • Mike Smith – tenor saxophone
  • Franklin Socorro – engineering
  • Homer Steinweiss – drums
  • Neal Sugarman – tenor saxophone
  • Jamie Talbot – tenor saxophone
  • Jon Thorne – viola
  • Chris Tombling – violin
  • Helen Tunstall – harp
  • Bruce White – viola
  • Katie Wilkinson – viola
  • James Wisner – mixing assistant
  • Zalon – backing vocals
  • Warren Zielinski – violin

Charts[edit]

Certifications[edit]

Region Certification Sales/shipments
Australia (ARIA)[196] 3× Platinum 210,000^
Austria (IFPI Austria)[197] 7× Platinum 140,000x
Belgium (BEA)[198] 3× Platinum 60,000*
Brazil (ABPD)[199] Diamond 250,000*
Canada (Music Canada)[200] Platinum 100,000^
Denmark (IFPI Denmark)[201] 3× Platinum 120,000^
Finland (Musiikkituottajat)[202] Platinum 33,884[202]
France (SNEP)[203] 2× Platinum 440,700[204]
Germany (BVMI)[205] 6× Platinum 1,200,000^
Greece (IFPI Greece)[67] Platinum 15,000^
Hungary (Mahasz)[206] Platinum 6,000x
Italy (FIMI)[207] 2× Platinum 160,000*
Japan (RIAJ)[208] Gold 100,000^
Netherlands (NVPI)[209] 5× Platinum 350,000^
New Zealand (RMNZ)[210] 3× Platinum 45,000^
Norway (IFPI Norway)[211] Platinum 40,000*
Poland (ZPAV)[212] 2× Platinum 40,000*
Portugal (AFP)[213] 2× Platinum 40,000x
Russia (NFPF)[214] 2× Platinum 40,000*
Spain (PROMUSICAE)[171] 2× Platinum 160,000^
Sweden (GLF)[215] Platinum 40,000^
Switzerland (IFPI Switzerland)[216] 7× Platinum 210,000x
Turkey (MÜ-YAP)[217] Gold 50,000*
United Kingdom (BPI)[9] 11× Platinum 3,513,084[56]
United States (RIAA)[61] 2× Platinum 2,403,800[63]
Summaries
Europe (IFPI)[70] 8× Platinum 8,000,000*

*sales figures based on certification alone
^shipments figures based on certification alone
xunspecified figures based on certification alone

Release history[edit]

Region Date Edition Label
Ireland[218] 27 October 2006 Standard Island Records
United Kingdom[219] 30 October 2006
Poland[220] 20 November 2006 Universal Music
Germany[221] 21 November 2006
Canada[222] 12 December 2006
France[203] 29 January 2007
Italy[223] 2 February 2007
Australia[224] 24 February 2007
United States[94] 13 March 2007 Universal Republic Records
Germany[96] 15 June 2007 Limited Universal Music
Japan[225] 5 September 2007 Standard
Canada[226] 13 November 2007 Deluxe
Australia[97] 17 November 2007
Ireland[227] 23 November 2007 Island Records
Germany[98] 30 November 2007 Universal Music
United Kingdom[228] 3 December 2007 Island Records
Japan[225] 6 February 2008 Universal Music
Italy[229] 29 February 2008

See also[edit]

References[edit]

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  2. ^ a b c d Bush, John. "Back to Black – Amy Winehouse". AllMusic. Retrieved 21 January 2011. 
  3. ^ Jones, Alan (12 December 2011). "Official Album Chart Analysis: Sales hit new 2011 high". Music Week. Intent Media. Retrieved 12 December 2011. 
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  33. ^ Christgau, Robert. "CG 90s: Key to Icons". robertchristgau.com. Retrieved 15 June 2009. 
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  38. ^ "Pop, Dance, Traditional Pop and Rock". Los Angeles Times. Tribune Company. Retrieved 2 October 2011. 
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External links[edit]