Friday, July 29, 2011

AMY WINEHOUSE: WHAT DO YOU SAY, WHEN YOU DON'T HAVE ANYTHING TO SAY?

I've been debating whether or not to write on the recent death of Amy Winehouse. If it wasn't the biggest story in the entertainment world, it was certainly the most momental and important, and this is a blog about the Entertainment industry, with the word "Entertainment," in the title. On the one hand, I have a lot to say and when I started this blog, I wanted to use the loosest definition use of the word "Entertainment," as humanly possibly. On the other hand, I am a screenwriter/filmmaker by trade, and frankly, pop music...-, ah hell, let's be frank, music in general, is not my strongest area of expertise. In fact, if anybody happens to check my facebook page, they'll notice on my profile, which I update often, many musical acts, but very few of them can be described as current or modern or pop acts. (The loosest definition and form(s) possible of the word/phrase "pop music", will be used throughout this article) In general, while I once dabbled in lyric writing in high school, like everybody does at some point, I have basically cut myself off from popular music from much of the last decade, in fact, this whole century, I've basically tuned out. While occasionally, I run into an artist or band that has a song or two I may like, I haven't bought a CD in years, I rarely listen to the radio, and I don't own a I-pod and don't plan on buying one in the near future, and I wouldn't know how to use it anyway. Some time at the beginning of the century, I gave up on music. That's not to say that I haven't occasionally tried to get back to music periodically, and some of the CDs I did buy in the last decade were newer and newly-released CDs, and occasionally, I'd borrow numerous CDs from the library and give a listen to something current if it in anyway peaked my interest. Amy Winehouse's "Back in Black," was one of those albums. For about a six-month period, all I heard was the song "Rehab," and I don't even like the song. I borrowed the CD from the library once. I think I listened to it, but honestly, I cannot swear to it. She was clearly talented, and had a singer-songwriter appeal that many of my favorite artists possess. (If you want to clarify my typical music selections, while there are a few anomalies in my collection, it basically consists of classic rock/pop, centered around Bruce Springsteen, and expanding from there, and another section I call the Lilith Fair era, which was post-Grunge nineties before boy bands and teen divas took over and was led mostly by mostly female singer-songwriters.) I tried searching for music many times, often writing names of artistis down I happen to see on a late night show that I liked, or on the rare occasions when I had digital cable, I'd listen for awhile on the music choice channels, usually the one called "progressive," if I remember correctly, or from some other place, and I'd look them up, and very often I liked them, and might keep an ear out for them, but rarely did I go any further. Frankly, it got to be a nuisance to go and search out modern, young artists for music that even when it was good, was hardly ever great. Why go and find and spend money on a CD or a music download, or whatever, on an artist or a song you're not even sure you're really going to like, when I can just put on my "Born to Run," CD anytime I feel like, and know that basically I'll be happy. And if I wasn't happy, I'd put on something by Tori Amos. If I lovesick, something by Melissa Etheridge or Alanis Morissette. For something to make me feel good, Sheryl Crow.  If I was still sad after I ran through my Tori Amos, there'd be Ani DiFranco or Aimee Mann to save me. For when I was angry, it'd always be Liz Phair's "Exile in Guyville". There'd be other emotions, but generally there was a CD for them. Then when movies and TV became my focus, there became more movies and TV shows for emotions then there was, music. Most of the CDs I had long played so much by then, that I don't even have to play them anymore, I could simply remember them off the top of my head and play them track by track. (One of the other reasons besides cost that I don't particularly see a need for an ipod, or whatever mobile/handheld device that plays songs you already preselected. If you preselected it, you probably already know, so why listen to it again. Granted I've seen some movies so often that I know them by heart and will see them again anyway, maybe I should rethink that.)

So what can I say about Amy Winehouse, other than it made me spend some a week of regret that I didn't get as into music as I wish I did? Not much really, and I didn't need her to die to have regret about my lack of modern music knowledge.Of course, that's not why she died. We don't have an autopsy yet, but until otherwise corrected, I'm pretty sure we all know. She had demons. She abused drugs and alcohol for years, and had been in and out of rehab many occasions. According to many who knew her, ultimately, she didn't want to be clean. One more rock'n'roll casualty. Another added to the notorious "dead at 27," list that started with Bluesman Robert Johnson back in the thirties, which also include Morrison, Hendrix, Joplin, Cobain, and numerous others. I'm still mixed about her personally though. And frankly, if were categorizing most shocking music and/or celebrity deaths, even at her young age, her death was by no means a shock. How much is that contributed to the celebrity culture that exists now, where we know everybody's personal business and demons? I don't know. I have a feeling not as much as we'd like tothink. I mentioned that I didn't like the song "Rehab," of hers, which was the only one I really new. Even though it's been stuck in my head for a week, it struck a contradictory cord that I had buried since I was young. It had always annoyed me in the early-mid nineties, when rap artists would be constantly discussing how the depictions in there rhymes of violence was imaginary and part of their art. Then they'd get arrested for a crime very similar to the ones they rapped about, and as a nine-year old who didn't fully contemplate at that time the cultural importance of their work (Plus, taken in light of it being the era of the East Coast-West Coast rap war, that was the worst and most wasteful of music eras.), that was just contradictory and hypocritical, and it kept me off of hip hop for years. With "Rehab," it disturbed me how the song was written from a 1st person perspective, and not an imaginary one. This was an emotional song, that basically expressed one's desire to continue on a paths or sex, drugs, rock'n'roll and destruction. In hindsight, I think I heard the song, and basically waited for her to die so that I can rub it into the shocked fans, "What did you think was gonna happen to her?" and for a little while, I could say that, then reality and taste would set in. I will say this though, "Rehab," is a better song now that she's past. It's sad, but originally, it was a declaration of independence and freedom that had a forboding undercurrent. Now, it's a haunting premonition turned suicide note that only makes it's cries more powerful. I know that might sound like an unsentimental and disturbing view of her work, and that it's way too soon to talk about her like that, but to quote another tragic artist who passed-too-young, "What else should I say? All Apologies."
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